Today was the first day back to school for teachers. You’d think that I would be drained and overwhelmed with all the teacher work that needs to be done.
Nope. Not at all. We talked about growing; both children and ourselves as teachers. We watched a flower bloom. We listened to a TED Talk on children learning. The message encouraged learning by challenging children. What if? and Why not? questions are critical. Ask, question, learn.
The very first thing I wrote as a teacher thirty years ago spoke to the same subject:
Process Vs Product
When your child proudly shows you his/her art creation, and you can’t even begin to see or guess at what your child has made (“Oh, that’s a boat? I thought it was a penguin!”), trust that his/her finished product is far better than if it really looked like a boat. How can that be? Isn’t something that looks like a boat better than something that doesn’t look like a boat? Absolutely not!
The preschool years are the best years to develop self esteem and creativity – the two most important ingredients for growing up to become capable, confident and independent, and for being able to offer something to this world as an adult. When we are three, four, and five years old, our physical skills are very limited and are still developing, but our minds are full – like giant sponges that never fill up.
So then, what happens when little hands try to create something? If a child tries to duplicate a pre-made item, the end result is never just like the model. Frustration sets in, a feeling of not measuring up develops and turns to apathy. Who wants to do something that has guaranteed limited success?
Instead, if a child is provided with interesting materials and few, if any, restrictions on how to use these materials, the result is a happy child who has used imagination, cognitive thinking and energy to create something. Why does it work this way? Because the learning and the rewards are in the process, not in the product! The doing, trying and thinking are the activities which build self esteem and creativity. It’s the process a child goes through that is important, not the finished product.
If you watch carefully, a good teacher will introduce the materials enthusiastically and ask questions rather than give instruction (“What could we do with this?”). The follow through is simply encouragement (“Sure you can: Let’s try together once more”) and praise.
The next time you look into your child’s art folder and wonder what in the world is contained within, just ask enthusiastic questions (“Tell me about your picture. How did you make that?”) AND REMEMBER, Process, not product.