One of my most favorite human beings, Rudolf Steiner, once said, “Receive the children in reverence, educate them in love, and send them forth in freedom” In this simple quote lies a profound way of how children should be welcomed and raised in this world.
Every morning for the past five years, I start my class by receiving each child in a very special way. Each child and I would make our palms touch, look each other in the eyes, then lay our hands on our chest, and say, “Gikan sa akong kasing-kasing, maayong buntag ___.” (From my heart, good morning.) I say the child’s name to which the child responds with the same words and gesture. And then we hug each other.
This manner of receiving is my way of connecting and sensing how the children are. While doing the ritual with each child, at the back of my mind, I also tell myself, “May the highest in me, meet the highest in you”. This whole process of receiving sets the mood for the day and prepares us for to learn together.
When I taught them in kindergarten, I would start the day by applying citronella lotion on their arms and legs while I asked about their sleep, breakfast or the parent who took them to school. This is done with the same intention of connecting to each child and creating the mood of warmth and acceptance around one another.
I have come to understand that when children feel and experience acceptance, they develop trust and confidence in who they are. Later in life, this develops into courage – they become fearless in meeting the world.
Another way of giving importance to the child is the ritual called the morning circle. It is the teacher’s creative way of carefully guiding and introducing appropriate movements and speech to children. It allows the teacher to keenly observe the children’s capacities to engage, focus, execute a movement, and follow instruction. The morning circle also allows children to experience their own space and place in the circle. Wherever they stand is “their place in the world” and no one else can occupy that. It’s the space where they work out their individuality, turning their weaknesses into strengths, meeting others, experiencing themselves and the world.
The idea of the circle or wholeness is then carried out into the day’s lessons and activities.
For instance, we introduce the whole story, then draw a scene from the story and from the image, and then draw out the letters, words, or sentences that will eventually compose the whole story again but has undergone already a process of digestion and dissection. It’s a very similar process that happens in the form drawing. Just imagine the kind of thinking process that is being shaped by this process. Children are taught how to see the whole, then allow them to “dissect” and explore its parts, and show them the way to bring it back to the whole again. For me, that’s real and warm education! It’s what’s behind the technique and what it does to the soul—thinking, feeling and will of the child – the very fundamental source of shaping societies and communities.
One time, I observed a class that made me so in-love with how the children looked at their teacher. It was full of awe and reverence. I would like to believe that this reverence from the children also streams from the love and striving of the teacher.
At the end of class, we recite a verse and say goodbye in the same way we welcomed each other at the start of day. Holding each small and beautiful hands in my palm while looking at their eyes and saying the words of gratitude, “Gikan sa ako ang kasing-kasing, daghang salamat!” (From my heart, thank you.) We hug one another and they go home.
When the children have gone, I close the door with so much gratitude and reverence in my heart.
You may ask, “Why do you go to so much trouble revering each child and working on your iself to make that happen?” It’s not just because they are our future but it’s also because they inspire me to strive, to love, and be the best that I can be. Most of all, the children help me to become fully human.
(This article also appears in the Willow Magazine, Issue no. 1.)