After teaching children for a while, I received many interesting questions from parents, friends, and other teachers. I thought it would be helpful to share some of the important ones here. More or less they are representations of my teaching philosophy.
Q: What are the best ways to start teaching young children at home?
A: My teaching principle is very simple. A child needs an input in order to have an output. Listening and reading are measures of input. Speaking and writing are measures of output. There must be an input in order for someone to produce an output. If there is no input, then there would be no output. Research shows that the best time for a child to listen is in the morning upon waking-up. Another way to stimulate listening is by reading bedtime stories.
Q: How do you channel creativity to your students?
A: First, I present my students with good questions. And they usually come up with interesting answers. This in itself can be a good discussion. Second, I use writing as a medium. When my students are able to write their creative ideas and put them on paper, that is the winning formula.
Many teachers pay more attention to theories instead of practice. Worksheets do very little to a student's creativity because it only stimulates short-term memorization. They are good for test taking skills. The question is: how can you use the knowledge for something practical? Don’t forget: the best way to remember is to "DO".
Q: How do you teach your students to write?
A: By writing. It's that simple. Writing is learned by doing. As the student writes, he or she will experience the journey of self-discovery. Writing channels the ability to connect with your thoughts. Writing is best done when the student has an idea to write about. And the best writing is the one that comes from experience.
Q: Do you have any methods to teach students to write?
A: My teachings are my methods. In a lecture, I guide students through different styles of writing. When I write online, students who are old enough to understand can learn new knowledge and method from my written work. Some of the best parents who read my work will also learn new things. This gives them the opportunity to guide their children when they are doing writing assignments together.
Q: How do you measure a child's progress?
A: Perhaps, the real question should be: what have you done outside of the lessons? The most effective education happens in a child’s home.
In every lecture, there is a constant energy exchange between teacher and student. The energy that I felt when I teach students who love to learn and the parents who’ve done their duties at home is incomparable. So keep that in mind before thinking about "progress".
Q: You mentioned health is a subject that young children need to learn at an early age. Can you explain?
A: When you hear the word health, you would think exercise and nutrition. But it is actually far greater. Health includes physical and mental. I will not discuss physical health here, since a lot of you should know what to do. But mental health is a subject that is not well practiced. Mental is the connection between mind and physical body. This connection produces emotion. Emotion is usually triggered by an external stimulus. And this reaction leads to emotional connection as well as communication ability with others. To cultivate the mind, we first have to calm the overactive mind. When the mind is calm, it is not disturbed by external things. The mind can concentrate and focus. Research shows that the best method to train the mind is through the practice of meditation and mindfulness. Perhaps, I will start teaching them to my students.
Q: What kind of problem solving ideas do you teach to your students?
A: More often than not, there are problems as long as we are alive. In the morning there is the problem of laziness. Traffic jams create problems when commuting to school. Bullies create problems. Too many homeworks trigger stress and that creates problem. And on and on. So the first lesson is to solve your OWN problems. Once you're able to solve them, then it's time to begin the real lesson. Remember: for every problem, there is always a solution.
And most likely, every solution will give rise to a new set of problems. "So what should we do?" one student asked. And I said, "Sometimes it is better to do nothing."
The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu 老子 once wrote:
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.