Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Only Teacher There Is

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.  ~John Dewey

These are the hands of a child fully engaged in life.

Sometimes we call it "hands-on learning," an expression coined by the great John Dewey, the godfather of progressive education.

When I see these hands, I feel proud of being an early childhood educator. Not long ago, they were the hands of a baby, but here they are quite manifestly those of a confident, competent child, engaging the real world in personally meaningful ways.

Humans are tool users: it's how we engage the world. We have being alone, talking with others, and for everything else we use tools. These hands are not doing this today because they suddenly matured into competency, but rather because they have been doing it since they were the hands of a baby, using these very tools with which he's now expert.

I said to these girls, "When you're talking, that glue gun is getting close to her arm." 

They paused a moment to consider what I'd said, but neither changed their position or behavior before going right back to their conversation. They judged, reflecting upon the experience of their years and practice, that the danger was minimal, trusting themselves and one another.

These are the hands of adults I see here, ones that will care for babies, create art, build skyscrapers, and otherwise shape life itself. They are the hands of experience, the only teacher there is.

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