I have been thinking about this simple yet powerful phrase for days – if not weeks. Last weekend I was talking to a dear friend on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean who is a teacher as well and we were talking about children and education (as you inevitably do once all the exchange of gossip is done) and we started to talk about it, and she had few stories about it.
Let me give you a quick picture about my friend. She is a gentle soul, with goodness exuding from each pore. She knows her stuff and children just get glued to her as if she is a magnet. I suppose 20 years + of experience in the field of education for a wide range of ages gives her authority to have a critical eye. Also, she comes from a family where all of them are involved with education; be it schools, universities, and private tuition.
In the other hand, I am a newbie. I have seen a lot in a brief period, but then again – as my friend says – I have seen so many different settings and educational approaches that the experience I am gaining is from a different perspective – let alone a different country – I can form an opinion having the advantage if you want to call it as such of my “innocence” in this profession and the heaps of life experience.
Before I carry on digressing let’s get back to the subject of “Gesture”.
You may wonder what is it about the gesture that it is so important? It is just a simple physical movement, a simple action.
It is indeed, a VERY powerful movement, a VERY powerful action. I think sometimes we undervalue the true worth of this noun.
Imagine that now there are courses to learn how to manage the gesture and how to read gestures. Feels that we are losing sight of the primeval instinct that tell us when a person is aggressive, just by the simple gesture of clinching the jaw or closing the hand as a fist.
Whilst I was doing my training, I was told, almost drilled into my brain the power of the gesture with children. Did you know that a child can feel the emotional status of the adult who cares for him? Did you know that the small child can read the adult like a book, just looking at the gestures? And did you know that the child copy and imitate these gestures from the adult and takes them as the norm, hence forth will do these gestures because is what they have learnt from the adult and it will be imprinted into their brains until adulthood?
What I am saying is that if an adult slams the doors (for example) for no good reason, rest assured: the child will slam doors, as soon as he can. If an adult washes dishes as if it was a labour of love, yes, you got it. The child will do the same.
Which takes me to what my friend was telling me about the gesture. She was commenting about “helpers” in a setting she happened to be accompanying a friend to do an inspection. Two young girls in their 20’s, both capacitated as early years educators – one of them studying to qualify as a teacher for reception – and both very sweet and funny, engaging children with activities and all the rest.
All was nice and dandy until lunchtime came. The children where all seated at their places, and these girls gave to the children the names of the children, written with biro in white pieces of paper. The logic behind it was to get the children to sit where their name was, and to swap paper for plate with food.
At this point I did ask how many children were in the room seated at the table. She said there were 4 tables, and 4 children per table. Is this “plate for paper” necessary? I wonder. Surely the carer(s) should know the names of the children in her care.
Then she mentioned how the lunch time developed. The carer(s) wore aprons, and did not put the food directly for children to help themselves (best way to not waste food if you ask me; children will eat what they really can eat) but served food directly on each individual plate. Spooning the food from the bowl, throwing it on the plate; tearing the bread apart and flinging the slices on each plate.
As she was telling me, I felt my jaw dropping. How could they be so careless with such a single gesture…And then I remembered that I should not be surprised. I have seen this not particularly with food…but with homework books, notebooks, and many other daily objects you could find in a classroom. Or with toys and equipment in nurseries when tidy up time. And then we wonder why children throw things up in the air…
“Oh” I managed to mutter. “But it does not end up there!!!” she said with a sigh…She told me how the children where prompted to eat and immediately afterwards a toothbrush already with paste and a wet towel were presented to them so they could brush their teeth.
Yes, fine, it is good because it does promote good hygiene habits. But then again, that pause, that space in time where you finish eating, you share that time of nothingness whist you wait for the rest to finish the food on their plates and then you go to the toilet to wash your hands, your face and brush your teeth, perhaps with your peers, it makes it more fun. More learning opportunities, more social interaction opportunities.
She finished telling me her experience and we started to talk about timings, about “acceleration – ism” and of course how everything was intertwined with the gesture and how powerful it was and as I wrote at the beginning how we diminish the immense power of this noun on a day to day basis.