Learning Pedagogy from Children

Precious lessons about life by Greek Professor John Jay College of the City of New York University
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Thalia  Vrachopoulos Jan 17. 2016
by Thalia Vrachopoulos

Through all those years through which I thought I was simply raising my children, without realizing it, I was simultaneously learning precious lessons about life. After graduating as a returning- to-school adult, and having spent my twenties nurturing kids, I discovered that I possessed the wisdom to teach young adults at college level.

Even now as a senior pedagogue, I have ample occasion to use my child-rearing experience in the classroom. One of the most important lessons extracted from these life passages was to allow students room for discovery and learning without feeding them knowledge forcefully. Having had two offspring consisting first of a son and later a daughter, he as the first born necessarily became my testing ground and springing board into maturity. Because he was a sickly child and due to my inexperience as a mother, I over-protected him and served as his champion at all times providing him with all that any child could possibly need even before he asked for it. As a result, I removed his initiative so that, brilliant as he was, he didn’t perform up to expectations, although he grew into a wonderful man despite my mis-ministrations. I didn’t stifle my daughter similarly and she is today a very independent and successful woman.

In the classroom where I teach Art History, we have lots of fun while learning.  I like to think that this is because I teach my students how to think and arrive at their own conclusions rather than giving them massive amounts of information that is pre-chewed expecting them to regurgitate it for exams. They tell me at the end of each semester that their eyes were opened by the course and that they learned not to be afraid to speak up, and to express their own conclusions based on their research.  Knowing this has served as the greatest reward to me as teacher but also as person and mother.

Cover photo: Käthe Kollwitz painting "The Mothers" / google / heecookingdiary
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