It made a very deep impression on me when I first came across the quote from Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understand, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. Implied in Mandela’s quote were my teaching experiences as a grade one elementary school teacher.
I know that the language children speak is quite different from the language used by adults. Children are not tiny adults. But they are children who have their own world. They express everything in their own way too. Because their language is about how to find some enjoyment in playing an exciting game, in singing beautifully, and funny jokes. Although, they are six or seven years old, and almost understand all the language used by adults, they still have a different communication style from adults.
For every lesson they receive quickly in study, I usually have proper procedures. It means I am going to adjust the subject matter with “their language” that will make them smile happily. Then they accept all the lessons will be taught. Sometime I do not need to give any orders to the children for them to do some tasks. It is enough to fill their heads with a story of courage or simple game, and then they will directly do their best.
If I ask my student with an order which they understand, it is sure they will do it too. They keep doing what I want. Moreover, if I couple the order with a little threat and intimidation, they quickly do something that I asked for. As a result, they will be quick to perform and go submit their work to me on time. But I think these kids have done their work quickly because they are afraid of me, not because of their conscience.
I understand completely that the purpose of education is not only to create an instantly smart student. But on the other hand they feel uncomfortable and they are under pressured conditions at the time of study. I want my children to find their self-awareness and become lovers of learning. And this can only be obtained when we can touch their heart with “their own language”, their world view, and what they want to do.
Lately, in big cities in Indonesia, kindergarten school graduates are proficient in reading, writing, and maths. They seemed to be forced by their parents and teachers to do it all. Adults and surrounding society will be happy if their children can do what they want as clever kids at an early age. There is a point of pride.
But kindergarten teachers and parents are not aware that if the children can do it all, it is just because they have been forced to. They don’t ever try to understand that children have their own desires to see the world. What is more, some kids miss their right to have fun because of their parents’ and teachers’ ambition. They would be ashamed if they knew that their children could not read and write at an early age.
At the time the children enter the next level of education (elementary school), some elementary schools usually have tests to get in that require the children to be able to read, write, and do maths. This happened in popular state policy elementary schools in major cities. And again, kindergarten teachers and parents force the children to be able to pass so they can get what they want.
As a result, yes of course, the children become instantly clever. They can read passages and texts well. They can write neatly and beautifully, and they can calculate quickly. But what has happened? Everything changes when they go to first grade in elementary school. These compassionate children now want to read just because they are asked by the teacher. They don’t have the initiative to read books in the library nor do they like to read in their leisure time. These compassionate children would write only if there are tasks from the teacher. They don’t like to express their hope and their life in writing. And last, they only want to calculate if there is an order from their master. This is in no way out of their own desire for self-sufficiency and self-study. Because all the lessons they just received were for their head, not their heart.
That is why there has to be a culture of learning and fun character study for children in early age. Rather than coercion and forcing children, which will make them hate to study at last. So, talk to them (in the context of education) with “their language”. Language of playing, fun, and excitement. Find out what they hope and what they desire to make their hearts touched. And if their hearts are touched, they themselves will love to learn.