Teaching is a bad habit in (early) education

In each of us there is another whom we do not know. (Carl Gustav Jung)

This post is inspired to a chapter of a book about gender parity I am writing for edizioni libre.

This post is inspired by a chapter of a book about gender parity I am writing for edizioni libre.
Habits themselves are not a problem or an issue. They become a problem when they are based on biases, or when they generate behaviour that is not ethically positive when they are unhealthy, dangerous or time-consuming. Education sector and Early Childhood sector mostly is a milieu where habits house easily. The reasons are many. It is a relational work, the quality education of the practitioners is not yet a global an issue, the requests and the needs raised by the children are ever changing and growing in complexity.
 Discussing with preschool teachers or EC practitioners, you have the opportunity to listen to phrases like “we have always done like this” paired with narratives of frustration and anxiety like “children have changed” and “parents are no longer the same”. Another way to make this story telling is that the habits of the staff are so difficult to change and are no longer effective in the making of the education process. Habits of the preschool teachers and staff affect the education process. About the gender issues, for instance, there are plenty of evidence that the behaviour toward boys and girls are often different. And as well as educators should have long understood that children must see themselves and their families reflected positively in the toys, instructional materials, literature, and language of the classroom, there are still a huge number of gender biases in education, mostly (but not only) in southern European Countries. We still engage in some practices that threaten self-esteem and challenges societal barriers. Habits affect different areas of behaviour like the way you name children, the expectation regarding make-believe playing, kind of playing activities, way to intervene in morning assembly, issues regarding lunchtime and setting of preschools environment. But bad habits are not only affecting gender issues. The strategies of preschool teachers suffer from habits in different level and areas of activities. But the first and foremost bad habit in education is teaching. We all have grown up in schools where the teachers used to teach. It is a never-ending paradigma: adults have knowledge and have to transmit it to children. And after that, assess and evaluate if this transmission process has gone right, or if there have been some problem. It is a very deterministic and unrespectful way of acting toward children, but this is exactly what is doing the 99% of preschool teachers to the children. We have plenty of evidence that education doesn’t work by transmission, but still, we fall into this enormous bias. This enormous habit. Indeed, as Carla Rinaldi remarks very well in the following piece,
a) Learning does not proceed in a linear way, determined and deterministic, by progressive and predictable stages, but rather is constructed through contemporaneous advances, standstills and “retreats” that take many directions. b) The construction of knowledge is a group process; Each individual is nurtured by the hypotheses and theories of others, and by conflicts with others and advances by co-constructing pieces of knowledge with others through a process of confirmation and disagreement. Above all, conflict and disturbance force us to constantly revise our interpretative models and theories on reality, and this is true for both children and adults; c) Children produce their theories, important theories by which they are inspired. They have their own values and meanings, as well as their own timing which both has and provides meaning, and which directs the course of their learning processes. This timing must be understood, respected and supported.
Breaking this habit is probably the most difficult challenge of education. Because it is a habit that defines a profession (teacher) and the action (teaching). Still, it is not only from the Reggio Emilia experience that is raised the need for a change. Authors and scholars like Howard Gardner, Jerome Bruner, and before of them, John Dewey, just to name a few of them, stated that the journey to a new image of education is needed, urgent and critical. But this habit-breaking challenge means having the courage to take decisions even if they go against the flow, if they are hard to take, if they are energy-consuming, when there is a risk of making mistakes, being exposed to potential error because the situation is not clear. It means ‘avoiding opportunist and obsequious attitudes towards authority’ (Loris Malaguzzi), discussing, criticize and questioning points of view constantly with others, trying to evolve situations that appear stagnant and irresolvable. The “teaching” issue involves the question of power. And questions of power use to underpin gender issues.
The concepts of ‘leader’ and ‘leadership’ — and their corollary of ‘follower’ and ‘being led’ — do not sit comfortably in an educational project that, as discussed below, takes democracy and cooperation as fundamental values, and makes them central to its practice? Of course, a leader may try to use the trappings of democracy to secure compliance, making a point of consulting widely and building teams to further her purposes and goals. But here democratic language and methods are instrumentalised and put to work in the interests of power. What is the situation though if you start from a position of democracy and cooperation as fundamentals […]?Where schools themselves have no hierarchy or fixed leadership.
Knowledge construction is at the basis of the society and it is a paramount pillar of western nations. The hope for a change goes through a deconstruction of the old habits and the recognition that the focus is on the collectivity, as individual knowledge is only partial; and that in order to create a project, especially an educational project, everyone’s point of view is relevant in dialogue with others.