Volume:6, Issue: 2

Sep. 1, 2014

How to Develop a Humanistic Position of a Future Teacher
Lipkina, Nina G. [about]

KEY WORDS: teacher-facilitator, a new type of teachers, Janusz Korczak, motivational traits, a dialogue of individuals, university instruction and extracurricular activities.

ABSTRACT: The author reflects on the essential problems of how to raise a new type of teachers who can be facilitators as well, and shows how the study of Janusz Korczak’s works and a type of university instruction and extracurricular activities, based on the ideas of this Polish humanist, are changing students’ values and motivational orientations at one particular pedagogical university.


Russian education today faces the change of values. If the school of the past focused on the transmission of large amounts of knowledge, a modern school is oriented towards the identity of the student as a subject of education and development, whose main objective is the search for meaning in life and for one’s self-determination. These circumstances dictate the necessity of significant changes in training future teachers. The formation of students’ humanistic positions, development of teachers who can be facilitators, who do not only possess knowledge and skills of how to organize an educational process, but also share a firm belief in the value of every human is now an urgent goal of university education.

Any facilitator should possess five abilities or arts (the art of understanding; the art of respect; the art of assistance and support; the art of negotiation, and the art of being own self), which make him/her capable of becoming a friend with a child and a teacher in the highest sense of the word. A facilitator is the one who is able to create conditions for cooperation with children, to detect their problems and find ways of solving them together.

The traditional system of transferring knowledge from a teacher to students is not able to perform this task. A different approach is required. Development of a future teacher’s humanistic position at the university is an important step towards the formation of a facilitator. In our view, a facilitator should not be just instructed but “educated” as well:

  • Knowledge by itself plays an important role in the development of a teacher’s humanistic position; especially the knowledge that contributes to the perception of the world of children, their joys and troubles, as well as realizing one’s own place in this world, and teacher’s basic educational values. (Rationality level).
  • The formation of humanity as a trait of personality is possible in a situation where knowledge is not just understood, but experienced at the emotional and values-related level, and personally accepted by the individual. At this level, there is the development of a positive attitude to the basic educational values.
  • At the next level, the amount of knowledge which is experienced and accepted should be implemented in action, in educational activities, that are based on taking care of specific children who need assistance and support.
  • The final step is one’s self-analysis: comprehension of the activities’ results, experiencing joy and satisfaction from the fact that one was able to help another person, and that the results are positive; or dissatisfaction, if something did not work - interpretation of errors and correction of ways of activities.

The first introduction of the student to the problems of education happens while studying the course with the similar title, "An introduction to the educational activities." It is the first phase of professional education, in which it is important to demonstrate to the students the system of relations which sets an example of an ideal teacher of the XXI century as a person of humanistic culture and a facilitator.

Studying the heritage of the teacher and humanist Janusz Korczak helps to understand modern approaches to education, to reach the level of their comprehension. Freshmen are immersed in the world of Korczak to learn from him the art of understanding a child: how to create the conditions for the approval of one’s personality in the system of human relations in the adult world, how to solve the contradiction between the child’s need to feel independent and his real dependence on the adults’ world. Studying the works of Korczak with students and comparing them with traditional approaches to education, where education is understood as a process of intentional personality formation, we came to the conclusion that the basis of any authoritarian pedagogy lies in the fact that the child is considered a future adult, while the basic meaning of childhood is understood as a preparation for life. This largely explains the desire of teachers to gain an absolute power over their students and to subjugate them. It leads to the depreciation of childhood; viewing it only as a preparatory step to the real, adult life3. Studying Korczak’s works, his biography, and his educational activities allows students to understand that childhood is not a preparation for life, but life itself, it is an absolute value, and whether a person will be able to experience the joy of childhood, depends largely on who he/she will become. Studying Korczak, understanding his life and activity allow students to understand and to accept his ideas. (Students read his works, watch and discuss movies "Tell me a story, Doctor" and "Korczak," compose reports and presentations on his books).

Studying the educational heritage of this outstanding humanist is intensive: writing creative works, staging plays based on his works, participating in roundtable discussions with university and school students on the problems of childhood. Referring to the work of Korczak, students discover true educational values, learn about the world of children's spirit, think about what is necessary for an adult to consider the child an equal partner, respect his/her personality, and be able to feel his heart.

"Korczak’s works give us a lot more than any textbook in education, writes a student from Mathematics Department Svetlana Kuftina. – His publications contain the living soul of the teacher, who loves child and dreams of a better life for him."

"Reading Korczak one learns to ‘penetrate’ through the written words and feel them with your own skin. After becoming a teacher, I will do my best to develop into a personality, capable of conducting a dialogue with children, of fully understanding them,” comments Tatiana Zagorsky, another student from the same department.

Why do we believe it necessary for freshmen to appeal to the works of the great teacher, writer and doctor Janusz Korczak?

Because Korczak worked with children for over 30 years, he knew and understood them like no one else.

Because Korczak being an educator of many generations of children, knew and understood this work like no other person would.

Because Korczak, being a wonderful writer, was able to establish unique conversations with both children and teachers. There is no direct guidance on educational work with children in his texts, but a smart observer, an expert on childhood, an experienced practitioner, a dreamer and a realist can be seen in each of his works. And the students, referring to his works, are engaging in dialogue and encounter with the miracle of discovering a smart, kind, understanding companion, so necessary for every thinking individual.

Because Korczak's views on childhood as an absolute value are very important today. Korczak believed that being deprived of a happy childhood, an individual life would be somewhat ugly and distorted. Therefore, it is necessary to cherish and protect childhood. A child is a fully developed human being, although of a different scale than an adult.

And finally, just because Korczak died at the Treblinka death camp along with his loyal assistants, staff and children, whom he could not leave in their hour of death.

Students keep being amazed with the thoughts they find in one of the most profound books written by Korczak, "How to Love a Child": "My principle is – let child sin, because in conflicts with conscience a moral stability develops"4. "Let us allow children to make mistakes and help them joyfully to improve5." "Motivation characterizes moral character and potential of the child, but not the act by itself6." "I can awake that which slumbers in the soul but I cannot create anything new. And I will be ridiculous if I become angry at him or at myself because of this7.” Such thoughts become the subject of discussion during our classes.

We keep studying personalities of great world educators during the extracurricular activities as well. For example, in preparation for the traditional university festival "My educational credo", students from the School of Mathematics staged Korczak’s novel "When I am little again8.” They justify their choice explaining that Korczak’s educational writings and activities contain ideas that are still relevant today and can easily help in humanizing children’s education. In other words, Korczak teaches us how to respect children’s rights and especially their right to be themselves. While reading this book, students learn a true pedagogy of children’s respect and understanding, they realize what their pedagogical credo should be.

To become humanistically oriented and to develop what Rubinstein called motivational formations,9 it is not enough to understand and support Korczak's humanistic ideas. It is important to involve a future teacher into the implementation of these ideas. When organizing different activities, our goal was to teach students the pedagogy of respect, which involves not only knowledge of the fundamental children’s rights but also the ability to interact with them using the principles of dialogue. The latter means to observe such principles as equality of all members, mutual respect, acceptance, and understanding. This kind of activities is organized in the following areas: arranging creative workshops which are based on the formation of students’ positive attitudes towards themselves and others, development of conditions that provide for a ‘growth’ of a positive and optimistic self-concept. It also demands an organization of workshops to build a communicative competence or the ability to build civil relationships with children, to respect and understand their positions; finally, to include students in activities requiring demonstration of empathy, acceptance, care, and responsibility. This is, for example, a voluntary work at an orphanage, which presupposes to establish a dialogue of individuals (university students and children from an orphanage), and the participation of students in the organization of activities, together with the orphans from the village Suksun and students from Perm School No 7.

Dialogical type of activities was organized at the Perm orphanage No 3. Each student received a younger friend – a child from the orphanage. Students and children carried out collective creative workshops at an orphanage, visited theaters and concert halls, and the museums of the Pedagogical University; children from the orphanage visited students’ homes, they also received individual assistance in preparing home assignments in some school subjects (math, computer science). During these activities, a higher level of communicative competence was developing and humanistic orientation of the students was forming.

University students also provided active assistance to students from Perm School No 7 organizing their joint activities with the students from the Suksun orphanage, while promoting the ideas of Janusz Korczak. Children were very impressed with the roundtable discussion dedicated to Korczak’s life and teachings; among the participants there were university students and faculty together with the school and orphanage teachers and students.

Studying Korczak’s educational heritage, students realized that education is not a purposeful development of the child's personality (nothing can be developed without the desire and needs of the child himself), but rather a process of ‘living’ together with a child, a dialogue, that involves equality of its members, a focus on understanding, co-creation and co-development. A necessary precondition for the effectiveness of such education is the humanistic nature of teacher-students’ relationships. This cannot be taught by traditional methods (although our system of teacher education is still focused primarily on the transfer of knowledge), it is possible to "grow" it in the student, creating favorable conditions by involving them in developing relationships with children and also with teachers engaged in teaching in a dialogical format, plunging the future teachers in an atmosphere of caring and love to those who are underprivileged.

During the second university year of study, students get acquainted with the holistic educational system of J. Korczak. They learn that a humanistic approach of the Polish teacher is not excessive permissiveness, but is a concern for the development of children, which is impossible to achieve without reasonable educational requirements such as self-governing bodies and councils, and the Children’s Seim. A friendly trial was designed to teach children reflecting on their actions, and learn how to be independent and responsible. An appeal to Korczak’s educational system helps students understand the essence of the process of education, and a tight connection between education and self-education. No doubts, Korczak managed to create favorable conditions for self-education. With greatinterest, university students learn about the system of guardianship in his orphanage. Not by chance a good guardian, who managed to prepare some "comrades," has often become a teacher.

The life and activities of an outstanding pedagogue help students realize that a theory of education could be exciting and practically oriented. Plunged into the world of Korczak’s educational ideas, future teachers obtain values without which it is impossible to become an educator-facilitator.

References

  1. Demakova, I.D. (2009). Reflections about School Holistic Systems 
and “Educational Spaces. Russian-American Education Forum. 1 (3). http://www.rus-ameeduforum.com/content/ru/?task=art&article=1000672&iid=4
  2. Korczak, J. (1979). Izbrannyje pedagogicheskie proizvedeniya (Selected Educational Works). Мoscow: Pedagogika – ХХII.
  3. Korczak, J. (1964). Kogda ya snova stanu malenkim. Leto v Mikhaluvke. Slava. (When I am Little Again). Moscow: Detskaya Literatura.
  4. Rogers C.R. (1983). Freedom to Learn for the 80s. Columbus, OH: Charles Merill.
  5. Rogers, C. (1994). On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy. Transl. into Russian. Moscow.
  6. Rubinstein, S.L. (1989). Osnovy obschei psikhologii. (Foundations of general psychology). Vol. II. Moscow: Pedagogika.
  7. Valeeva, R. (2010). Janusz Korczak's Holistic System of Education. Russian-American Education Forum. 2 (1). http://www.rus-ameeduforum.com/content/ru/?task=art&article=1000716&iid=6

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