Plato, Playtime and School Shows
As you may know, I married into a large Greek-American family. If you have seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you will have some small idea of what I entered into! The father in that film was always remarking on the wisdom of the ancient Greeks, and though the film obviously played this for laughs, there is great truth in the notion that much of what we think today was originally thought out by the great Greek philosophers of many thousands of years ago.
I was reminded of this recently when I came across a quote from Plato. Here is what he said:
“Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may better be able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”
Simple, but, oh so true!
We are all different, and we all learn in different ways. There is talent within all of us if it can be brought out. Teaching through “play” is not only a valid method of instruction, but an essential one.
We all have some skills but few of us are skilled in all areas. Expecting everyone to excel in, say, mathematics, is ridiculous. And simply bearing down on a child struggling in a particular area of study will only teach the child that they are inadequate and encourage them to quit trying. rather, a skilled instructor will seek out the skill in which that particular child is adept, encourage that skill, and thus bring out a sense of self esteem and worth in the child. This sense of self worth will then further encourage the child to try again in the weak areas.
Moreover, we do not all receive information in the same manner. Some are skilled at reading, while others are visually receptive. Still others are best at receiving and processing information when it is presented verbally. Some thrive only when all three methods are employed.
So it is that school shows, or assembly programs, where valid curriculum based information is presented in a fashion that is at once both entertaining and visually stimulating, while also deeply educational, are a phenomenal tool for furthering education.
I once was performing a show, and I was somewhat distracted by a kindergartner near the front who was actively engaged in methodically latching and unlatching the velcro fastener on his sneaker. Over and over and over again, each time accompanied by the same noise each time the velcro was pulled apart.
I did not allow him to distract me enough to affect the performance, and all was fine, but I was certain he was lost in his own world. But at the end, when I asked for questions from the audience, to my amazement, this same child looked up (I think this was the first time he had actually looked at me rather than the fascinating shoe) and proceeded to engage me with a serious of very worthy questions. His questions left no doubt that he had been actively listening to the entire proceeding but did so without the benefit of visual attention. In fact, his listening and concentration was apparently facilitated by not having to watch, and being able to engage a portion of his brain in a simple repetitive task. Wow. I learned something that day myself!
School shows are great for uncovering “triggers” in the minds of children. These triggers may lead anywhere, but it is clear that they very definitely lead to an interest in further learning. They lead to fun. And when kids discover that a particular subject or activity is fun, they want more! And that is the case whether the subject is math, history, chemistry or reading, just as it is when the activity is sports or games.
The mind is amazing, and is designed to be curious. We are all better off when young minds are taught through activities they enjoy! School shows are a perfect way to augment and brighten the normal routines of school! Plato would be proud!
Geoff Beauchamp is the Regional Manager of Mobile Ed Productions where "Education Through Entertainment" has been the guiding principal since 1979. Mobile Ed Productions produces and markets quality educational school assembly programs in the fields of science, history, writing, astronomy, natural science, mathematics, character issues and a variety of other curriculum based areas. In addition, Mr. Beauchamp is a professional actor with 30 years of experience in film, television and on stage. He created and still performs occasionally in Mobile Ed's THE LIVING LINCOLN.