Saturday, November 28, 2009

A passage from a book by Vasily Sukhomlinsky

I'm moving the education related posts from my random thoughts blog to here - this one was originally put on it on Nov 6, 2009. The next two posts are also just traveling here from their old home.
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This is one of my favourite passages from "I Give my Heart to the Children" by Vasily Sukhomlinsky. A must read for any teacher dealing with children. I wish we had some great inspirational training for all teachers. Don't they make the future?

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Our Corner of Dreams

Finally we lit a fire in the stove. The dry twigs blazed up gaily. Evening fell over the land, but our little hideout was bright and cozy. We looked at the trees and bushes covering the slope of the ravine and there, from the secretive thickets, fairy-tale images came to us. They seemed to ask, “Tell a story about us, please." The trees and bushes were enveloped by the semi-transparent haze of twilight, bluish at first and then lilac. The trees took on unexpected outlines in this haze.

Children fantasize eagerly at such moments, making up stories.

"What do the trees piled over there on the slope of the ravine look like?" I asked, addressing myself not so much to the children as to my own personal reflections. To me they looked like green waterfalls, which had fallen swiftly, down a precipice, now hardened into carved images of basalt or malachite. I wondered if any of the children would see what I saw there, for the evening hours are also the time to observe how children think.


And then I saw that one child's thoughts were flowing wildly and swiftly, giving birth to new images, and another was thinking like a broad, deep, mighty river, slow but secretive in its deep places. Whether or not the river had a current was unclear, but it was strong and irrepressible. This river could not be easily re-routed as could the swift, light current of the thoughts of the other children, or blocked off, as it would look for a way out at once. Shura saw a herd of cows in the treetops, but as soon as Seryozha asked, "But where do they graze? There's no grass there", Shura changed his mind. They're not cows: they're clouds that floated down to earth to rest for the night. Yura's thoughts soared and changed just as quickly. But Misha and Nina watched silently with concentration. What did they see? Dozens of images born in the children's imaginations had already swept past us, but Misha and Nina were silent, and Slava was, too. It couldn't be possible that they hadn't thought of anything. It was already time to go home when Misha, the quietest boy of all, said, "It's an angry bull pounding at the rock face with his horns. He can't conquer the rock, so he stops. Look how he's straining--look, look, he's shoving the precipice over..."

And suddenly all the images, which had crowded around us flew away. We saw that the pile of trees was in fact surprisingly like the hardened fury of a bull. The children started to twitter: look how he set his legs against the bottom of the ravine. Look how his neck was bent--his tendons were probably trembling, and his horns were stuck into the earth...  

Look what Misha thought up! At that instant, while clear living images floated above our heads, his train of thoughts went their own way. He had listened attentively to the words of his comrades, but not one image had fascinated him. His fantasy was the dearest, the earthiest. The child had caught sight of something he had probably seen, which had made an impression on him. And yet such taciturn, slow-witted children suffer dreadfully during lessons. The teacher wants the child to answer the question, more quickly; it matters little how the child thinks-he must have an answer then and there so he can give a mark. It has never occurred to the teacher that it is impossible to speed up the flow of this slow but mighty river. Let this river flow in accordance with its nature; her waters will surely reach the destination, but don't hurry. Please don't get nervous; don't beat this mighty river with birch switches of bad marks--nothing will help.
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