For Chinese parents, education is an eternal topic. From the “double reduction policy” to the “school competition culture,” new issues continue to emerge, but the core of education remains unchanged: every child has their unique strengths, but how can we uncover their talents?
Based on continuous attention and reflection on the field of education, Elite Talks has witnessed many phenomena and heard various viewpoints along the way, some positive and others negative. When we let go of anxiety and refocus on the children themselves, what do we really want to see?
Today, Elite Talks sincerely recommends to its readers the first domestic documentary on education design, “The Craftsmen of Education,” launched by CCTV. With 12 non-institutional education cases and 12 disruptive teaching approaches, this documentary gives full respect and recognition to children’s “absurd and peculiar” behaviors. Through the authentic reactions of these children, it prompts us to reconsider the purpose of education.
This documentary consists of a total of 20 episodes, without extravagant filming techniques. The filming team takes the audience deep into the teaching scenes with a slow-paced approach, focusing on the most authentic state of the children, teachers, and parents.
The English title of this documentary is “The Teaching Artist.” Director Liang Yujie stated that the featured teachers in the film not only possess the dedication and refinement of “traditional craftsmen” in their daily work but also demonstrate the creativity of “artists.” Education itself should be artistic or, in other words, a work rich in personality. “Tailoring education to individual needs” is not just empty words.
As individuals who have once been children and reflect on our own journey of growth, we can also perceive and empathize with the initial intentions of different educational explorers. As we transition from being “pressure receivers” to “observers,” we ponder how we wish to be treated, the learning methods we desire, and the way we want to grow up?
Sense of Security. Embracing Silence.
In the era of educational training, exam preparation has taken center stage, with education playing a supporting role. The primary emphasis lies in achieving good academic results.
Children’s leisure time is continuously squeezed as the majority of parents adopt the educational motto of “learning advanced extracurricular knowledge” and “study as hard as possible as long as you don’t die.” Lack of effective communication and the inability to listen to children’s true thoughts jeopardize most parent-child relationships.
Where should education begin?
First and foremost, reshaping a healthy ecological environment for education requires restoring children’s sense of security and rebuilding the trust between educators and learners.
In Episode 5, “Sense of Security,” of the TV series “The Artisan Teacher,” various ingenious educational designs were implemented to foster positive relationships between teachers and students, peer-to-peer relationships, and the child’s relationship with themselves.
For instance, the classroom walls were adorned with posters and sticky notes displaying the “4-step problem-solving method” and “what constitutes a good apology.” These visual aids helped children, in the early stages of habit formation, to learn how to use language that is kind, positive, and respectful towards teachers, classmates, and themselves.
In an environment where respect is fully emphasized, children’s sense of security is flourishing.
The school has also established a special “game room” where children can come and draw their emotional state when experiencing emotional problems. In this room, they can reflect on their feelings and answer questions such as: “What emotions did I experience in that moment? Was it anger, sadness, or frustration? Or was it rage, depression, or feeling wronged?”
As a result of a deeper sense of security, children are gaining self-awareness and the ability to manage their own emotions.
After several training sessions, children gradually become aware of their negative emotions and learn to self-adjust and recover. Some children even enter the “game room” and find their emotions completely settled before finishing their drawings.
Teachers are no longer the sole leaders in the classroom. In a project-based learning (PBL) curriculum, elementary school students take turns expressing their viewpoints while the math teacher, Ms. Li Zhuo, provides only a framework of guidance, observing from the sidelines.
Although teachers appear to have less control over students’ learning outcomes, allowing children to take charge and showcase their abilities, Ms. Li Zhuo explains, “I am still observing you, and I am well aware of your progress. My true sense of control is even stronger.”
When conflicts arise between challenging sports that allow children to express their nature and safety concerns, the school does not simply prohibit them. Instead, children are informed in advance about the potential risks and how to avoid them. The decision to participate or not lies with the children themselves.
At an age when exploration should be encouraged, children do not require excessive protection. Engaging in challenging sports can potentially ignite their self-protective instincts and foster their ability to think independently. Moreover, these activities can enlighten them about the significance of teamwork.
By providing a blank canvas in their world, leaving ample space for them to freely express themselves, many conflicts and contradictions that arise in education can be resolved.
Parents have long been aware of the detrimental effects of excessive pressure on their children, especially in first-tier cities.
Parents in urban areas, particularly in districts like Haidian, Beijing, emphasize the importance of a balanced lifestyle and harmonizing knowledge with action. Consider the mothers in the heart of this whirlwind, who haven’t arranged a hiking trip during their child’s vacation to broaden their horizons? Or who haven’t enrolled their children in art and sports classes to cultivate their character and refine their sensibilities?
Mothers’ actions are not without purpose. For instance, they encourage a closer connection with nature, which offers knowledge that cannot be found in textbooks. They also support the development of additional skills, which can enhance a child’s resume.
However, these approaches still adhere to familiar educational formulas, yielding only familiar outcomes.
In the third episode, “Perception,” of the TV series “The Artisan Teacher,” a distinct form of nature education is presented. When embarking on an exploration of a river, the teacher first asks the students: What are your feelings about the river? Which river is your favorite? Armed with these questions, the students blindfold themselves and proceed to walk upstream one after another.
Their task is to listen attentively to the sound of the river and gauge the duration of their hike with their hearts.
By shutting out external distractions, students seem to journey back to ancient times when survival depended on keenly listening to the footsteps of wild animals for safety and observing the celestial bodies to tell time.
During this experience, the most primal aspect of human perception is awakened. A profound inner tranquility envelops them, naturally igniting their powers of observation and granting them a more three-dimensional understanding of the world.
After removing their blindfolds, the teacher narrates the process of a black-shelled shrimp shedding its exoskeleton and traces the crawling path of a caterpillar on a leaf. The focus is not solely on imparting textbook knowledge about these organisms, but rather guiding everyone to explore the interconnections between the river and these life forms.
Moreover, they delve into understanding the relationship between the river and the neighboring villages and crops.
As students piece together this information, a natural realization dawns upon them: all these life forms are intricately linked.
A compelling conclusion emerges: each life form exists independently while being intricately connected to its surroundings.
Starting from the foundation of perception, students gradually acquire the ability to empathize rationally with the mountains, rivers, flora and fauna, as well as the historical context of the villages. Children who are immersed in this environment for an extended period are more likely to excel in future mainstream careers such as design and creativity, as they possess the capacity to deeply connect with and understand the world around them.
Furthermore, there is a heartfelt empathy that develops as well. For instance, when a child is occasionally not in the mood for learning, they are able to accurately express to the teacher what is bothering them and respond to the teacher’s embrace and concern. This ability proves crucial in building intimate relationships in adulthood.
In a thought-provoking statement, Principal Chen Guohua of the Shanghai Migrant Children School delves into the true nature of education. He asserts that education is not merely about imparting knowledge to children, but rather igniting within them a desire for empowerment and enhancing their ability to attain happiness.
Intrinsic motivation, the driving force within oneself, holds immense power. Children who have tapped into their inner drive, regardless of their initial circumstances, are destined for greatness. This raises a critical question: how can we awaken and nurture intrinsic motivation?
When it comes to researching intrinsic motivation in children, online articles present a plethora of diverse approaches. These strategies typically revolve around providing children with positive encouragement, fostering self-confidence, identifying their interests, and nurturing their natural curiosity. While these methods are undoubtedly valuable, they often overlook a significant underlying factor: the child’s upbringing in a secure and nurturing environment.
When a child is trapped in a state of profound material and spiritual deprivation, conventional methods often fail to ignite their intrinsic motivation.
Recognizing this challenge, Principal Chen has devised a unique approach to address the needs of such children. Leveraging the power of “gifts” as a catalyst, he and his team embark on an annual visit to a rural elementary school in Shangrao, Jiangxi Province. During this visit, they carefully select 100 students and invite them to dine at a local hotel, where they are surprised with their desired gifts.
During the selection process for the annual initiative, it is not arbitrary who gets chosen among the 100 students. While the criteria are not overly stringent, students are encouraged to voice their aspirations and articulate their individual strengths.
One such inspiring moment occurred when a child with a hearing impairment found the courage to stand up and proudly proclaim their superior clothes-washing skills, expressing a desire to receive a gift.
Principal Chen’s eyes lit up as he approached the child and earnestly said, “Top-tier hotels in big cities are always in need of individuals who excel at laundry. They specifically entrusted me to bring you this gift, hoping that you will continue to work hard and, in the future, be entrusted with managing the hotel’s laundry staff.”
In the realm of education, transforming abstract ideals, interests, and talents residing within the hearts of learners into tangible realities holds immeasurable value.
By guiding students to discover their unique strengths and fostering their spiritual fulfillment, a profound difference is made, particularly for those born into impoverished circumstances. These students are granted the invaluable opportunity to develop the determination and courage to climb the ladder of success.
Respecting the individual differences of children, allowing them to experience the blessings of nature, and teachers presenting gifts to their students… These diverse and beautiful practices seem challenging to implement within the confines of the current education system.
Despite the challenges, artists within the realm of education continue their unwavering dedication.
In addition to their documentary filmmaking pursuits, creators have organized several vertical dialogue salons to further delve into the qualities exhibited by the educators showcased in the films. From these discussions, they have identified several common characteristics shared among these individuals.
First and foremost, educators should approach the world with curiosity. They view the process of teaching as an opportunity for personal growth, embracing a mindset of continuous learning. By adopting this mindset, they not only enhance their students’ education but also enrich their own lives.
Furthermore, educators not only need the ability to tailor their teaching to each student but also uphold the principle of equal education for all. Children form an intricate ecosystem, displaying a myriad of characteristics, ranging from brilliance to simplicity, from endearing to lively.
With different roles and contributions, their value is equally unique. As the caretakers of this ecosystem, teachers must appreciate the beauty of flowers and green grass, but also embrace the presence of manure.
In the current education system, educators who truly meet these criteria are few and far between.
To address this issue, it is crucial to redirect the focus of teachers back to the essence of education. Providing educators with more time and space to unleash their potential is essential. Only then can we witness the emergence of The Teaching Artist, someone who learns and grows alongside their students, fostering a collaborative and transformative learning environment.
The desired education we aspire to is one where teachers employ teaching methods that are infused with artistry and creativity, illuminating the lives of students.