To accomplish anything educationally, some control is needed.
The word ‘control’ has a bad name in some quarters. As a verb, it comes from an Anglo-Norman French word, contreroller which meant ‘keep a copy of a roll of accounts’, originally stemming from the medieval Latin contra- ‘against’ plus rotulus ‘a roll’. This already has connotations of someone else having a say or looking into what you are doing, which puts many people off, of course.
But all the way from a small child learning to handle his or her own hands and body, to a young adult needing to organise his or her life in order to get tasks done, some degree or kind of control needs to be applied. Neither an object nor a piece of information nor a skill is of any use to anyone if it cannot be controlled. Control and learning go together, hand in hand.
Young children easily demand measures not necessarily good for them; as they get older, if they have not experienced wise and good control, these measures grow into forces which actively work against them and those around them. A child who has discovered that loud, obnoxious or even nasty behaviour can get him or her something they desire will be reluctant to let go of that tool as they grow older, and thus find life increasingly difficult as an individual and as a member of a group. Any successful educational environment must work to strengthen and reinforce wise and good control both at home and in the classroom.
Grown-ups control more environment than children - that’s almost a definition of what it means to be ‘grown up’. Encouraging positive and rational control of things, ideas and behaviour in the immediate environment leads to an adult who creates order, good sense and positivity around them in later life.
How does a successful learning environment get this right? Firstly by recognising that children who can positively control their materials as well as their communication lines to others with whom they are intimately connected will thrive and prosper in education and in life.
Accompanying this must be the firm recognition that children who are unable to control their materials and their communication lines to those around them will struggle both to learn and to live.
Educational progress which is running smoothly is controlled; educational progress which is faltering is not being controlled. There isn’t really any such thing as ‘bad control’, merely an absence of control. Someone who is attempting control for a bad reason is actually not controlling but only seeking to control: results will be poor, for the most part. Children who have been merely ordered about, interrupted and shouted at have not been controlled at all, and can start to believe that there is something bad about control itself: the trouble is that they really don’t know what ‘control’ is.
Control, in an educational environment where the intention is to positively teach children survival skills and to open the door for them to the wider world of careers and wonders, consists entirely of starting the day, the lesson and the action to be done crisply, changing the state or condition of learning by adding value to the child, and stopping things effectively, appropriately and brightly so that the child flourishes.
That’s all there is to it.
With very young children, success is measured by enabling better control over simple things at the earliest possible time. Control in the Nursery depends upon adults having extremely high affinity for the children in their care and observing closely what each child is trying to control.
At infant age, children learn the most basic of manners in relation to each other and the teacher so that their powers of control and their grasp of the fundamentals of reading, writing and numbers can rapidly increase.
By the time they reach Junior age, children are encouraged to learn and follow not only positive school rules designed to assist them in gaining a much greater control of their environment, but also basic classroom routines and expectations so that none of their time is wasted. Part of this is learning a moral code which helps children to recognise the effects of good and bad behaviour on their own lives and on those around them.
As they get older, a great many factors begin to ‘pile in’ on the life of an individual child. Having mastered the basics, children now encounter specialised bodies of knowledge which demand from them a noticeable increase in organisational powers. Their own ability to control what happens around them is magnified by their need to recognise and guide those changes happening within them, as the teenage years arrive. Tutors must be equipped with skills and procedures needed to assist with all of this, and stand ready to support each individual in their quest for rational control of their lives.
When the last years of schooling arrive, children, now on the threshold of adulthood, usually come to see that a highly controlled classroom environment is a kind of ‘life support system’ designed to get them through this very demanding period with the greatest possible efficiency and positivity. In a less controlled environment, a school rule can be seen as something against which one must rebel; in a fantastically affirmative and enthusiastic environment, rules are interpreted as lifelines and guides to a healthier and more productive existence.
The product can be seen at the end: young people who are courteous, well-mannered and productive without losing any of their good humour or individual charms.
A successful educational environment strives to create and maintain wise and good control so that, in the future, the citizens it produces will forward such notions into the society as a whole.
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