This week, I have been visiting preschools for my new job and on Friday, I went to four different preschools. What I noticed while I was there was how each preschool had a different environment, a different expression and where the children and the adults behaved in a distinct way.
The first place I visited, there was quiet, the adults were not speaking much and there seemed to be a sort of gentleness in both the adults and the children’s expression. The children were not particularly interested in me and simply played around themselves, investigating a sandbox or riding a bike. The next place I went was big with a huge playground surrounded by forest. The children I was meeting, immediately took my hand and started talking and laughing. The adults came over to greet me and the environment was similar to a party where people mingle around talking and getting to know each other. The third place I visited was very small. Here the children were told to not jump on the tables, that they could fall down or that it was time to eat fruit. They also had a greenhouse and I walked with some of the children around, while they showed me all the plants they were growing and we relocated a snail from the greenhouse to the garden. The environment here was sort of ‘small’ and very gentle, for some of the children too gentle in that they did not have the opportunity to express themselves more than what the adults allowed in terms of sitting still and walking around. The fourth and last place I visited was very big. Here, all the children were running around in a courtyard, there were fights breaking out, screaming and several children were walking around, looking quite lost. The adults were standing in small groups only talking to each other, focusing on each other and only occasionally they would stop and go to break up a fight or tell the children that they weren’t allowed to do this or that.
What I realized is that the children’s expression would shape after the environment they were in. It was also so that the second and the fourth preschool were public while the first and the third were private, with the third being parent cooperative based. This definitely plays a role as well. And even though the third place was the most ‘harmonious’ in that it was quiet and calm and the adults were very much ‘present’ it was clear that for some of the children, this environment was restrictive. They were not allowed to jump or run around or explore the environment with their bodies. On the fourth place however they were crawling all over the place without any supervision unless someone started crying intensely and alerted an adult.
So two preschools, within an area of 500 m of each other, probably with children who live in the same neighborhood, are providing a learning and development environment that is completely different – where one teaches the children to cope in a ‘dog eat dog’ world and the other that they must restrict and suppress their expression to fit in and not get in trouble. The second place I went to was definitely the one were the children seemed the most expressive and I see that it is largely to do with the adults, who also seemed more expressive and relaxed with one another.
I once saw a documentary about a public nursing home where they had had lots of trouble with very high sick rates among the nurses and care workers. They then hired a new visionary leader and the first thing she did was to ask all the employees: “If this was your nursing home and you lived here as an elderly person, how would you have liked it to be?” Immediately after that they changed the entire ‘business strategy’ of the nursing home. The nurses and care workers stopped wearing uniforms and started wearing their own clothes. They stopped forcing the elderly to go to bed at 10 pm and instead allowed them to go to bed whenever they wanted to. They started allowing the elderly to have alcoholic beverages at dinner and to choose their own meals, even if it would then be pork chops three nights in a row. They introduced a piano in the dining room and started allowing people to bring their pet if I’m not mistaking. Since then, the nursing home has almost no sick absence from the employees. Several of the elderly people that had been expected to die at any moment would ‘come to live’ and would sit long evenings in the dining room singing and even create romantic relationships. The workplace is now one of the most sought after among nurses and care workers as well as for the elderly people seeking a place to end their days when they can no longer care for themselves.
This principle of doing onto another as we would have liked done onto us, could with success be applied to children’s education as well and should be. I’ve worked in many preschools and stopped because I found my colleges and the general work environment very depressing. It is created around ideals that the child care workers must apply and adhere to, for example in relation to children’s learning and development, but it does not include the adults and is not based on common sense, but on regurgitating ideals of “equality” and “learning” where the child care workers simply have to follow the schedule at best and at worst simply stand as child rearing robots who are there to make sure that the children do not kill each other.
The places I have worked as a child care worker, we adults would want to talk to each other the most, drink coffee in the break room – because the activities with the children were repeating day after day, with focus on ‘keeping the traditions alive’ and ‘providing a stable environment’ but where no one considered that it is the adults that is the foundation of such a stable environment. The entire focus was on what the children could ‘produce’ and display to their parents – not on them expressing themselves or exploring for themselves. Even the toys and provided play spaces where simulating ‘life’ in areas where they could ‘play house’ with a play stove or a grocery store with products in plastic, simply teaching the children to grow up and fit in to the hamster wheel of consumer society.
Stability does not necessarily mean doing the same thing every day at the same time. An environment where children can grow and develop themselves in the best way possible is an environment where the adults themselves are stable, consistent and enjoying themselves. Consider then also the four different preschools I mentioned here. Whether a child grows up to become someone who cannot sit still and listen or someone who has no self-expression because they’ve been taught that it’s dangerous to jump around or someone that feels completely lost and disconnected from everything and everyone, is determined by the environment they are brought into. This is the case for these fours preschools, all located in the same community in a vicinity of 1 kilometer. But it is also the case for the children of the world at a global scale, where the environment dictates who we will become, the capacity of our vocabulary and how we see and experience life and relationships with others and ourselves. Thus when we grow up and can’t read or can’t sit still and therefore don’t get an education or only focus on education while never developing a relationship with ourselves – it is because of the environment we were brought up in – not because of intelligence or luck or hard work.
The optimum environment for a child’s development and learning should thus be equally available for all children of earth, not as a rigid system with uniform colors on all the walls, but simplistically based on the principle of doing onto another as we would have done onto us. Each child’s development should be assessed and carefully administered according to that child’s expression and particular requirements. But simply creating a learning environment where adults enjoy being and where children get to participate with that which the adults themselves enjoy, can in itself transform the entire way children develop.
Through creating an Equal Money System based on the Principle of What is Best for All as that which all systems are based on, a child care facility (If it is even to exist still) will be based on what is Best for All, as children, care workers, parents and the general community – in anything from architecture to toys and learning tools and curriculum. It will be a fun place to go for everyone where we will focus on expanding ourselves to the utmost of our potential, together. Children will thus, through the living examples of adults, be supported to develop themselves as Human Beings that care about the well being of all life forms, that from an early age understand the cycles of the ecosystem, that know their own body and that develop integrity common sense.
For us to create such as system and to stand within that position as adults, we thus require reeducating ourselves to become living examples of integrity and equality. Because without us changing ourselves, children will be brought into the world to repeat the same mistakes, to suppress themselves as we have learned to suppress themselves and to mistrust themselves and each other.
The current way children are brought into the world, is a little like Russian roulette, where only the minute few are ‘lucky enough’ to dodge the bullet of being brought up in an environment that does not support them in fact. And even if the parents have good intentions, they often don’t have a choice about what day care or preschool or school to send their children to. And as we have seen, even within the same community one cannot be sure if the preschool one sends one’s child to will be one where children are supported to expand to their utmost potential – most likely it’s not. And in this current system, most parents will not even have the choice even if they do see that this is not the best environment for their child. Because just as we are busy chasing the endless hamster wheel of survival, so will our children be conditioned to follow in our footsteps. Unless we make a directive decision to change ourselves and change the systems through which we manage our lives and the principles we’ve decided to live by – from hamster wheeling into death, to systems that care about all life in equality.
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Here are some more blogs on the subject of children and education and Equal Money: