I wonder whether you inspire your class to wonder or whether you like to keep a lid on things? The ‘datafication‘ of teaching has cretainly pushed wonder to the side.
Awakening wonder in the classroom requires a special type of teacher. It needs someone who connects with the children, someone who has passions and interests to share and someone who actually understands what creative education looks like.
So where are these teachers? Well, they are about the place and they aren’t difficult to spot. They tend to be maverick teachers, members of the awkward squad and the type of teacher who likes to go off piste and wander off course. They are wonder-full and wonder-fuelled teachers who find the strange in the familiar and the familiar in the strange an exotic.
Wonder is a prerequisite for learning because it can emotionally charge information and make it stick. Emotional content stays with us all. Astonishment is certainly a transformative experience and wonder-full teachers seek to astonish wherever they can. They like to deliver wow and mix it with awareness and have a nose for content rich and activity rich experiences.
I think the most confident expression of what a wonder-full teacher is comes from humanist pedagogy centred on the individual and S.A. Amonashvili, one of Russia’s outstanding educators. He sees children as immense marvels. He wrote:
“The child is not a clean slate nor a block of wax but simply the most astonishing miracle of all miracles, who presents to his teacher a marvelous gift which is the unique opportunity for becoming a ‘wonder-working wizard.’ Mastering the subtle skill to locate the exact point of contact with the child’s spirit, a shrewd teacher is gradually able to open wide the limitless quantity of rich, diverse, and multi-colored deposits or talents that are concealed in the child’s inner world. The teacher is then able to transform the child into a ‘comrade-in-arms’ in the business of his education, to direct his self-knowledge, self-discovery, self-development, and self-perfection. Children are marvels, but they need teachers who are ‘wonder-working wizards.’ These are needed not only to individualize children but also to uncover the wonders that are in each of them. The teacher’s ‘magic’ ought to be multi-faceted, thorough, and harmonious so that it stimulates and develops the child. This is an absolute necessity in order to equip him with confidence in his own enormous potential.”
And there we have it. Wonder-full teachers are wonder-working wizards that turn children into creative comrades and help them to discover the senses of awe and wonder for themselves.
When I ask colleagues about whether they have heard of Shalva Alexandrovich Amonashvili’s doctrine then all I get back is a blank look and then a “Who?”.
We have so much to learn from our friends and neighbours yet we don’t always venture that far. Even academic texts devoted to wonder education tend to stick to what and who they know. For example, in the book edited by Egan, Cant and Judson (2014) there is not one mention of Amonashvili.
It’s time we shared Amonashvili’s work in the West to appreciate this educator’s thinking and his many contributions.
Want to know more about his views then watch this video:
Amonashvili, S.A., Instruction, Evaluation, Grades, Moscow, 1980, p. 9-11.