This was an exciting event and an honour to Kick-Off the 2nd Education Summit 2019 in Brussels. I have met interesting peoiple, fellow teachers and Ministers from all over Europe. Inspiring conversations and exchange of thoughts.
Here is some ‘food for thought’ . My Key Note speech. A snippet of my life with some educational insights. 🙂 I will add it as pdf as well in case you would like to print it out.
Click here: Speech Christoph Schiebold
My name is Christoph Schiebold, I work as a teacher at the international Montessori School in Brussels. I am executing this profession since 16 years.
I have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999, since then I do live with this open and shut, helpless case. But helpless, I never accepted and changed my perspective upon this matter. I made it part of me, I incorporated it in my daily life, taking one step at a time.
To start to accept is the hardest. To start to live with the unknown, the unknown that you can’t control, is nerve wrecking, … It is all about those nerves. I was sad when I got the diagnosis, sad and lost. I was only 20 years old at that time. I did not know what this is all about. At the beginning, for still a while, I was able to walk as anyone else yet slowly it became more difficult and I felt that ‘here, something is changing’.
After around 5 years after the diagnosis, I bought my first cane. It became helpful and a necessity. For some years, actually many years, That was me. Over time, I added braces to support my feet, so now I have a cane and braces on my feet. That also, became me.
At that time, my representations, pictures made by my students, were, me, two legs, no cane. After, it became, two legs and a cane.
Now I am drawn in my chair.
Since three years now, I decided to use a wheelchair, outside to commute and also in my classroom, because walking, even though I have a cane and braces, became harder and harder, so now, four wheels it is. And that became me.
Now I have it all, Cane, braces and my ride, but I don’t complain, yet I do admit, that it is hard by times.
I have secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis, the process is slower, yet consistent, but that became good news.
I started to look at all the positive aspects that I found, understood and learnt throughout the years. I focused on all the things that I actually CAN DO and not on the one’s that I CAN´T DO, and I realised that there are many!!
All this did not hinder me to have two fantastic children, a beautiful wife and a profession that I like.
Nevertheless, at the beginning, when I got the diagnosis, I did not know, in what way I will be able to have a career at all and do what everyone else does. This was one of the unknowns and I was scared and lost. Where do I go and where will I end up?
That’s quite heavy when you are 20 years old and you are ready to start your life, be ambitious and ready to conquer. You have the impression that something pressed the slow-motion button, everything loses a sense and your life changes. What now?
Time is what I needed, time is what I got and time is what I took and I always had promised to myself, that that additional ‘cargo’ will not take over my life, become the ruler of my existence.
It is my legs that do become gradually weaker. It is a life-long journey, with ups and downs, moments of profound self-questioning and despair. Answers, I do not have, but the will to continue and don’t give up, I do. So I continued as normal as it can be.
It is the way one approaches the challenge. It is good to tell oneself, that this one does not take over the other one, no matter how hard it is.
It is the same approach in teaching! The difficult shall never take over and rule the strength! It is the focus on the strong side, the strength’s that build confidence and self-esteem.
If one continuously only points out the weaknesses, motivation goes away. One needs to use the STRENGTH, which will then support and help to tackle the weakness.
You might think, yes, makes sense, but I am talking about one’s personal weakness, because not all have the same strength nor the same weakness.
Time is an essential factor in that approach. I always give the example of you, the adult, taking an airplane.
You know at what time it will leave, so you leave the house at an appropriate time to do check in, if not done online, get through customs etc. Let’s say you leave at 11.00 a.m. We know, that to be stress free, you need to be at the airport 2 hours earlier (domestic flight). If not being late because of other factors, that is ideal.
You take the time you need, to have all sorted and set, to have a smooth and pleasant, stress free flight (of course there are always unforeseen surprises, but even that you count in and are , some sort, prepared for).
So you take your time, no questions asked. Why do we not do that with our children? Why do we frame them all under the same parameters? We need to start to give the needed and relevant time to our children too!
They are dependent on us, for having and receiving the time they need to develop and learn, obtain the help and protection, to have a smooth and pleasant ride during their educational travels until they have reached the stage of development, where reasoning and understanding of one’s own thinking will allow them to meet the expectations. Expectations they are confronted with during their life and learning.
Their journey needs to be prepared in many aspects within their development, emotionally and physically. Each child is different, each child develops differently.
Our aim should be to create self-confident and emotionally strong children, hence future responsible adults.
Therefore, a child needs to develop and unfold to her and his own pace, so the right amount of time needs to be given and provided.
That brings you back again to the factor TIME.
Time leads to individualized education, time gives room for discovery. Discovery of oneself, the environment, hence the world, what brings them to the important facts and figures, also known as academics. It is these academics that often are the hurdle in a child’s life. As mentioned before, every child is different and hence the approach needs ideally to be adapted to the child’s developmental moment. For all, the main aim is to become an independent human being.
Teaching is all about reaching their personal perfection. Teachers can help to seek these opportunities to help them grow towards their personal perfection.
In its essence, every child is perfect. It is our responsibility to help the child to its utmost, to unfold this perfection, that is omnipresent within all of them.
Being confronted with this unfortunate health situation, has influenced my way of teaching. It has put many things in perspective. I did, as all the teachers are doing, take myself out of the equation. I do not need to be a part, that balances the equation out. I need to be the part that helps the children to create and balance their own equation, gives them their solutions, what helps them further and will please them and gives them the good feeling of achievement and hence pure fulfilment. The role of the teacher is to guide the child in its endeavours and learning journey.
I would like to finish with an anecdote that as happened not so long ago. It was one of those ‘rock-bottom’ moments that can happen. It was a hot day and my legs weren’t in the mood to adhere to my wants, getting up a step. I fell, all was good, and there I was, lying on the floor, being disappointed with my-self. At that moment, my son Tristan came around the corner, not commenting anything, handing me a key chain that lingers around our house, saying ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. This is how I live my life. There are so many wonderful and nice days to cherish, no need to give up.
And this is also how one needs to look at education. We should keep calm and carry on. Help our children to become creative decision makers, critical thinkers and most of all empathetic and caring global citizens. If we manage to help to do that, this world will stay a beautiful pearl within the universe, the perfection within the imperfection.
Thank you very much,
Dr. Montessori has focused on the child from a holistic point of view. She considered the child, the human being as a being of greater purpose within the universe. Dr. Montessori stretched the difference between the human and the animal. It is clearly differentiated between their ways of learning and understanding the environment they live in, the environment that we started to share since the appearance of the human form on this planet. The environment has been prepared for the human over millions of years, until evolution has found the right moment to combine all components on this planet to create us, the human being. So, nature has found the right dependencies, created interdependencies that led to the collaboration of many unicellular creatures to gather and share the work that needed to be done. Step by step, nature has set the necessary features to allow evolution do its evolutional magic. Once the organism has reached a first step of perfection, the need of survival was given to the human through multiple, endless experiences that have formed the psyche, which has supported and developed mechanisms that have been passed on throughout the years that humanity has roamed the world. That is what we call human tendencies. This is one of the components that are a gift of nature, helping us to support our personal development throughout, what Montessori calls the four planes of development. The four planes of development are a classification of planes that are identified with a exact number of years. The change, what is referred to as ‘re-birth’, happens every 6 years. The four Planes (or phases) of development are an overall vision of Montessori’s developmental psychology from infancy to adulthood. Her vision of the whole of development and growth was not her own. It provides a holistic view of the developing human being and explains the constant Montessori idea of the importance of education as a “help to life”. Next to the human tendencies, that represent the practical application of the Montessori method which is based upon these human tendencies, that include moments of ‘to explore’, ‘to move’, ‘to share’ with a group, to be independent and make decisions, create order, develop self-control, abstract ideas from experience, use the creative imagination, work hard and repeat. Nature has found a way to internalise, pre-design these qualities in the human being. It is the apparatus, the motor for self-perseverance on all levels. This is essential for the child in the first plane to develop its own self. It helps with the tendency, such as orientation, order, exploration to help and support, to give a profound and strong base for the child to discover itself and its surrounding. In the second plane, these tendencies are still applicable but the focus changes. This time the children will apply these tendencies to go out and discover the relationships with others. Key within all the four planes of development is the prepared environment. It represents the tendency order, orientation, exploration communication and activity. It needs to be prepared according to the age group and hence fulfil the needs of the individual. When this is applied consciously and scientifically, the child will reach normalization. When this is the case, the child’s contribution to society is positive and helpful, being cooperative. Maria Montessori said: ‘Only ‘normalized’ children, aided by their environment, show in their subsequent development those wonderful powers that we describe as spontaneous discipline, continuous work, and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others. Activity freely chosen becomes their regular way of living. The healing of their disorders becomes the doorway to this new kind of life.’1. The child grows through these planes of development and has the support of the tendencies which are levitated by the sensitive periods, primarily apparent in the first plane, followed by the sensitivities, which are morality, potentiality for work, acquisition of culture and imagination, which supports the child’s growth during the second plane of development. The moment indicates a strong ‘attraction’ towards a responsiveness targeting a strong absorption or voluntariness towards a need that needs to be met. The sensitive periods define the stages of human growth from birth to biological maturity. Each stage lasts approximately six years and a different set of psychological characteristics can be observed in each stage. Human tendencies manifest according to these characteristics. Sensitive periods guide each stage of development and are most pronounced in the first plane. During the second plane, the children are guided by the cosmic education. Cosmic Education is the term to describe the approach of introducing the elementary child to the universe, with all its wonders and its awes. The universe is the whole of, what Montessori perceives, as the answers to all the questions Humanity has. It is the presentation of the whole what leads the child to the details. This creates gratitude and humility what paves the path to a global understanding of the fascinating facts that nature does and has provided in the evolutionary process of the creation of men and its psychological, spiritual and physical environment. All that was said so far about a cosmic vision and the cosmic plan or cosmic organization; about the cosmic agents with their variety and diversity of tasks and work, leads to a cosmic order; and man’s special place and role in the cosmos for creation. All of this is involved in the cosmic education. The universe is a gigantic source of information with many answers that are and continue to be discovered. Camillo Grazzini said: The Montessori vision of the world has a cosmic dimension because it is all-inclusive: Montessori looks at the world, on a very grand scale, that is, at the level of the universe with all of its interrelationships.2. During the second plane the child is marked by many changes. These changes are physical and psychological. Their needs are expanding beyond the classroom. During this intellectual period the child’s questions are innumerable . He wants to know everything, his thirst for knowledge is so insatiable that people generally are at their wits and about it. Therefore, they mostly choose the easy way, and simply force the child to be silent and to learn what we group up and consider useful for the child. The child has had the opportunity to profit from the Absorbent Mind throughout the first plane. This is giving a solid foundation for children to enter into elementary education. The Absorbent Mind functions like a sponge. All the concepts presented to him, or ways and routines are absorbed in a way that the child learns effortlessly. There also, Nature has provided mankind with a gift of an essential technique to prepare for what’s to come. Dr. Montessori said: “Our work is not to teach, but to help the absorbent mind in its work of development. How marvellous it would be if by our help, if by an intelligent treatment of the child, if by understanding the needs of his physical life and by feeding his intellect, we could prolong the period of functioning of the absorbent mind!”3. As much as the universe, ‘Life’ has created an environment for us, the members of humanity by using its maximum effort, yet following the laws of nature that have had to be created to provide a logic and suitable world, the child has the capacity to do so likewise. It is fascinating how the cosmic plan shows its wonders daily. Mario Montessori said: ‘There is a plan in which the whole universe is subject. All things, animate and inanimate, are subordinated to that plan’.4 We as educators, teachers and guides, need to provide this environment for such an opportunity to work with maximum effort11. As nature, hence humanity and therefore our children have the will and potential to do work with full concentration during the work-cycle that we provide to them. This is the role of the adult. In Education for Peace, she stated,’ In order to begin the task of reconstructing man’s psyche, we must make the child our point of departure. We must recognize that he is more then our progeny, more than just a creature who is our greatest responsibility. We must study him not as a dependent creature but as an independent person who must be considered in terms of his own individual self.’5 So as responsible person guiding the environment, the child is helped to be himself, to find and develop his own personality. It is the holistic approach, the isolation of difficulty, within the academics and also the physical. It is important to find the right equilibrium between the two aspects to achieve the utmost throughout the child’s preparation for the third plane. It is not exclusive to physical or intellectual work. It needs to be balanced in a way that all the needs are met. Nature has provided us with the laws of dependencies that exist in the environment. Humans have identified and recognised the needs of humanity. It is important to have a full awareness of the prepared environment. That is creating the appropriate conditions for the preparation of the child to move to the next plane of development. Camillo Grazzini said: ‘The child’s hands, guided by his intelligence, begin to do jobs of a definitely human type. This child is always doing something with his hands’.6. This work prepares the future adolescent for the plane he will enter. The adolescent wants to be physical and use his hands. Purposeful activity enriches his development. One can see that the preparatory work executed in the first two planes is creating the path for the child’s conquest of independence. Development takes the form of a drive toward an ever greater independence. ‘It is like an arrow released from the bow, which flies straight, swift and sure. The child’s conquest of independence begins with the first introduction to life.’7. This is based upon the force that ‘Sir Percy Namn’22 refers to as a constant drive to reach the goal that is to be reached. This a force that sits within the child to prepare himself for the third plane. During the two planes of development that the children leave behind to enter the third plane of development, they have been equipped with helpful characteristics and allowed to follow their tendencies to sooth their unconscious needs. All of that is supporting and will support their future study. Nature has handed them the gift of absorption and will. They have been equipped with sensitivities that focus on the necessary abilities to become independent. Independency is a concept the third plane students are seeking for in a wider and in-depth manner. They want to explore furthermore, detach from their family and discover and understand their environment and also themselves. Now they have the urge to apply this concept of outside the classroom, away from the chaperoned outings they were helped with in the second plane. They want to explore and discover the world. Thanks to the prepared environment in the previous two planes, the children had the opportunity to practise decision making and hence had the opportunity to become independent in execution of work, organisation, exploration, orientation and imagination. Dr. Montessori said: ‘An inner change has taken place, but nature is quite logical in arousing now in the child not only a hunger for knowledge and understanding, but a claim to mental independence, a desire to distinguish good from evil by his own powers, and to resent limitation by arbitrary authority. In the field of morality, the child now stands in need of his own inner light’.8 The child is ready to face the challenges of the third plane. It was provided with a cosmic curriculum showing many secrets of how it all is interrelated and dependent. With this global view and holistic understanding, decisions can be supported by the large internalized knowledge-base. This allows the adolescent to focus on his second re-birth entering the third plane.
It has been some weeks now that I have had the honour to participate in the Global Education & Skills Forum: I am one of the VTA’s now, Varkey Teacher Ambassador, being part of a group of 250 people that have made it under the last 50 teachers in the Global Teacher Prize during the last 5 years. The experience was a fantastic one. I have met many different people from all over the world. Teachers who want to do the right thing, just like I want to do it too.
The first two days, we had our VTA summit. We got to know each other and spent some time to find out about each other’s projects and achievements. Very nice and inspiring. The second half was the Global education & Skill Forum summit. There too, many more people from all over the world, fantastic location and just the right weather.
The sessions were very interesting, half on EdTech and the other half on general education. Interesting. Indeed, great ideas, yet sometimes a bit of beating around the bush. Sometimes, I don’t want to be arrogant, I have the impression that the essence of education gets overrun by the way of how to grade, uniform and meet the standards way of educating, well, teaching. Nobody spoke in-depth about the importance of child development, about the child in the moment of growth and discovery. I thought that that was rather sad. Problems are easy to put on the table, yet the prevention of these, by the sheer understanding of the child, was not put to the forefront.
But anyway, very interesting people, people with influence, leaders and decision makers. All present.
I am very happy that I had the chance to go and I hope I will be able to go again, we’ll see. :
Do you follow the child or is the child following you. Do you support the child’s personal development or is the child following your ideal thought of development ?
Do you help the child to be able to help him/herself or do you help the child to help to maintain the inflicted standards?
What is the aim of education? What does one want to achieve? How can we help to give children the ability to be critical, questioning and solution finders?
What do we do and what do we give to them, pass on and help them to build a solid foundation to be able and confident enough to survive in this world?
If we call our adult mentality conscious, then we must call the child’s unconscious, but the unconscious kind is not necessarily inferior. An unconscious mind can be most intelligent. We find it at work in every species, even among the insects. They have an intelligence which is not conscious though it often seems to be endowed with reason. The child has an intelligence of this unconscious type, and that is what brings about his/her marvellous progress.
The Absorbent Mind
The majority of people would always like to think outside the box. In some way that is their way to be innovative or progressive. Generally, there is nothing against this way of thinking, yet often it is ending nowhere hence to the incapability of thinking inside the box. This might sound a little arrogant but that is not the intention. I just want to pin out the fact, that it is time to start thinking inside-the-box, to set the base to do the outside-the-box thinking. Why are all the solutions always to be found outside the box? Have we actually covered the ground inside it? People hat want to think outside the box obviously have covered all their options inside the box and are convinced that hey will find, whatever they are looking for outside of it. Or is this just a way to gain more time to look for something that is not yet in their vicinity? Why is no one saying that she/he is thinking next to the box. Maybe because that is to close to the inside and hence, not enough time available to do the proper thinking, that is needed to find the solution necessary. Maybe it is another way to say that one takes a step back, or actually outside of a ongoing thought process, to come back again after and having refreshed their thoughts…
Maybe that’s it…
In a world of a technological way of living, where Internet shopping is the most convenient in our fast living world, I see it as our responsibility, the responsibility of the adults/teachers that we protect and preserve the true essence of education,… reading and learning through experiences and the exchange of thoughts and ideas.
One needs to be careful to forelive this attitude to the children that will be our future leaders.
How can we accept, that knowledge starts to sit exclusively within machines that show us the way, in physical direction or mental self-understanding?
How can we accept that children are classified according to the ability of learning?
We need to stop, to let other people tell us what a child needs, when often the one element that is needed is ‘giving the time’ and that is neglected and seen as non-existing?
How can that be?
I think and believe that all children have the same ability to learn. Everyone is different and according to that, time, environment and approach needs to be adapted, prepared and respected. If we allow ourselves to respect and cherish these three factors, that are omni-present, globally existing for everyone, and most of all for free, would change a fair amount of fore-said, decision-made, prejudices and pre-conceived ideas.
Places like little book shops, offering additional writing and reading sessions are getting lost hence to big corporate companies, that give you all the happiness you need for the price of stripping your personality with or better for them.
My book shop goes against this way of living. My team and I know the people, we share a moment together through the process of making the decision, choosing the book that one wants. It is important to have the personal contact. That needs to be and is forelived in this environment. Children see and hear these conversations, wonder and ask questions.
Once again it is the environment that sets the mood and openness of oneself. It is the prepared environment that gives a sense of security and compactness.
Dr. Montessori said: Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment. The teacher’s first duty is to watch over the environment, and this takes precedence over all the rest.