How Did it Happen in the First Place?

Written by Michell, translated by Sabrina Wong

Adults have been putting a lot of effort teaching children to enjoy learning and not to get attached to the results.

Schools have been organizing activities, telling children to enjoy the learning process and not to focus too much on the marks.

In fact, children enjoy learning and exploring by nature. From the moment they are born, they start observing and learning. They interact with the world in their unique way. They learn how to walk and how to speak naturally. They learn through doing things repeatedly, such as, saying something or doing/playing something repeatedly for days/months, until they master it or they feel it’s enough. To them, there is so much fun in learning and they know nothing about results and marks. They simply do what they enjoy. To them, there are so many new things in this world waiting for them to explore, and all new experiences spark them with joy.

But, when children are exploring, running here and there, touching and asking this and that, adults say they are causing trouble.

When children are spontaneous, flowing, and attracted by different things, then adults say they are not focusing and not showing any achievement.

When children are enjoying every moment, adults say they are lacking purpose…

Children have an innate curiosity to explore and learn, they learn in every moment and are not limited to the classroom. They naturally want to be capable. But they are put into a system where adults evaluate them based on an external standard and marking scheme.

So gradually children are molded to live in a survival mode, to live up to adults’ expectation, to get good marks.

Then adults say, “No, no, it’s not about the marks…”

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Adults have been teaching children to be content and grateful with what they have.
Schools have classes teaching children contentment, and to be happy with little things in life.

In fact, children are happy by their own nature. Happiness is their nature. Playfulness is their nature. They are happy with what they have and flow with that. They don’t compare, they don’t judge. They are happy no matter if it is simply running around, playing a long slide in the park, being held by their parents, or having yummy snacks.

But, when children are being silly, playing and laughing with ecstasy, adults stop them, saying they need to control themselves.

When children get 80 out of 100, adults ask why they are missing 20.

When children are content with who they are, adults say to them “you can be better”.

Gradually children’s pure and joyful nature are destroyed. They learn to focus on what they are lacking as they are evaluated and judged constantly.
Gradually children believe they are not good enough.
Gradually children lose their innocent smile.

Then adults say they should be content and grateful with little things in their lives…

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Adults have been teaching children how to deal with failure. Schools have programmes teaching children not to fear of making mistakes, and to be courageous to deal with failure.

In fact, children all learn through trying and falling. Think about the way they learn how to walk, how to speak…They keep on doing, keep on trying until one day they make it. Yes they fall, yes they make mistakes, but it’s not a failure, it’s a progress to them. They try, they play, they fall, they enjoy, they laugh, they progress, and they made it. Children are born with immense energy to learn. Nothing can stop them when they want to do something.

But, when children learn and explore in their own way, when there is trial and error, they are punished. They are scolded when they spill water on the floor. They are punished when they make mistakes in homework.

Gradually children learn that doing things right is good, smart, successful and then you are loved, while making mistakes is bad and is a failure and you are not loved.
Gradually children stop trying. They become cautious and fearful. They are not spontaneous and alive anymore.

Then adults say children should have the courage to deal with failure…

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Adults also want their children to have a critical thinking mindset.

In fact, children are born with wisdom. That wisdom is like an inner light guiding them. They have their own thinking. They have their own stand. They are in sync with the environment. They interact with the world based on their feelings and inner wisdom.

But, when children insist on what they want, adults say they are stubborn and misbehaving.
When they think critically and question adults’ disharmony, injustices, and contradictions, adults say they are rebellious.

Gradually children learn to be submissive. They start hiding their feelings, they become less expressive and just blindly follow adults’ words, they start losing themselves.

Then adults say they should develop critical thinking…

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We all hope to bring up capable and independent children. Other than putting much time and effort in designing so many programmes teaching children this and that, would it be more effective if we don’t put labels on children and destroy their innate qualities in the first place? Would it be more important that we don’t coerce them to fit in the ridiculous part of the system? Would it be more effective if we don’t make them feel that what the labels and judgement say about them is true?

The education department has been putting a huge amount of money organizing so many programmes to arouse children’s interest in learning, teaching them how to deal with failure in life. Many psychologists/counsellors have been dealing with cases which children don’t want to go to school, lack interest in learning, fear of making mistakes, feel lost and depressed. This is heartbreaking…

If we spend more effort on simply respecting children and trusting their innate ability,
If we spend more resources on building a new system where every child feels that they are good enough and they can be who they are,
If we allow children to unlearn all the limiting beliefs, let go of all the labels, and give them time and space to unfold themselves,

The world may become different.

This is what we believe here in Sudbury. And this is what we are doing.