Seymour Papert - Grafik

Seymour Papert  (Wikipedia)

“I think it’s an exaggeration, but there’s a lot of truth in saying that when you go to school, the trauma is that you must stop learning and you must now accept being taught.”

 Seymour Papert

That may the state of things in many schools.  Do we have a choice?  Do we want young children to learn or  do we believe  that teacher’s hold the knowledge and will dole it out when the time is right?  How does our language reflect what we believe?  Do we continue to refer to “our” classrooms as  “Miss Mary’s Room” or  “Mr. Brown’s Room” ?  Does this imply ownership?  Would changing the name send a different message to children, to parents, and to co workers?  Consider what would happen if you changed the name to reflect the space or that  the children were involved in the naming process.

Working in a Reggio Inspired School, we tackled this issue a few years ago.  We wanted to move from teacher’s ownership of the classroom to a classroom that had many inhabitants; children, teachers, parents, and even pets.  After talking among ourselves, teachers talked with the children.  Together they launched a study of names.  They talked about their names; why they had them, why they were named that particular name, and why names were important.  They talked about areas in the school that already had names: Library, Bookstore, Welcome Center, and the Lodge.  They discovered that often the names reflected the context of the space. Together children and educators named the classrooms and worked to make the names visible to the school community.  Today we have classrooms with names like “Sunshine Room” “The Window Room” and “The Friendship Room.”  The rooms will continue to hold onto the names in an effort to support children’s sense of belonging to a school community. The older children will know that the next year they may be in “The Mosaic Room” and will be able to help the younger children use the name signs as navigational tools as they find classrooms new to them.

While this example doesn’t address the big spirit of the quote-it does speak to the children’s active learning as they investigated names and to the shift in the teacher’s attitude as they recognized children as the strongest voice in the process. Teachers moved from “teaching” to learning along side the children. What small step could you take to support children’s learning and move from being “taught”? Do you have something to share that could help others?


“One of the essential attributes of a good teacher — from preschool through graduate school — is the disposition to respect learners,” observes Lilian Katz in her book, Intellectual Emergencies: Some Reflections on Mothering and Teaching.  She explains…

“I suggest that to respect the learner means, among other things, attributing to the learner positive qualities, intentions, and expectations, even when the available evidence may cast doubts on the learner’s possession of these attributes.  A respectful relationship between the teacher and the learner is marked also by treating learners with dignity, listening closely and attentively to what the learners say, as well as looking for what they seem reluctant to say.  Respect also includes treating the learners as sensible persons, even though that assumption sometimes requires a stretch of the teacher’s imagination.  When it comes to young children this element of respect implies that we should resist the temptation to talk to young children in silly sweet voices, heaping empty praise on them, and giving them certificates indicating that smiling bear believes they are special.  This disrespectful strategy makes a mockery of teaching.  After all, teaching is about helping learners to make better, deeper, and fuller sense of their experience and to derive deep satisfaction from the processes of doing so.  Education, after all, is not about amusement, excitement, or entertainment.”