To Lead A Child To Learn

steps to reading

Helen Keller wrote, ”Anybody can lead a child to a classroom. It takes a teacher to lead a child to learn.”

Keller is perhaps the most famous of students of the 20th century. Her teacher, Annie Sullivan, taught Helen, who became blind and deaf at the age of 19 months, how to communicate and connect with the world. The relationship between Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan demonstrates the vital link between student and teacher that creates learning and an engagement with life.

Each of us serves as a link to someone else’s learning. Unfortunately, many of us send out busy signals, hang out do-not-disturb signs or simply don’t answer the call.

Our world is the worse for it.

Marianne Williamson, in her book, A Return to Love, says that our job on this planet is to love and to heal each other. We may think our job is what we do for a living, but our essential work is to love and to teach others to love.

Each of us has someone who is calling out to us to light up their life, their mind, their heart, their body, their spirit, because love is a verb, not a state of being or a feeling. Love is what we do.

With our gift of love we connect others to their world, be it large or small. Helen Keller tells of Annie Sullivan patiently isolating an object and spelling out a word into Helen’s hand, day after day, after day.

Anybody can lead a child to a classroom. It takes a teacher to lead a child to learn.

The essential connection begins by tuning our attention to the child and his or her self-chosen activities. We limit and prepare the child’s surroundings in order for the child to absorb information using as many senses as possible. We connect the hand and the mind through meaningful activities. We provide opportunities for repetition in order for the child to experience and learn the new and challenging.

First, we introduce the whole of an object or idea, and then name the parts. For example: We offer the experience of an apple using as many senses as possible. Naming the object comes next. Later, we introduce the parts of the apple, such as the skin, the stem, the flesh, the seed and the core.

We present information from the concrete to the abstract. Holding an apple is a concrete experience. Saying that an apple is a fruit is an abstraction. In the oft-told story of Helen Keller’s realization that everything has a name, Annie Sullivan went from the water running over Helen’s hand to giving her the name in sign language into her hand. From the object to the word; from the concrete to the abstract. Experience, then language.

To guide the child, we realize that human beings have inherent traits, and we use this understanding to connect the child to life and learning. To teach, we use the knowledge that every human being is on a continuum of growth with predictable but variable patterns of development.

We give the child freedom to learn and to make mistakes. In order to practice freedom, we give opportunities to learn responsibility. Beginning with the end in mind, a teacher knows that the work is not to raise a child but to raise an adult.

We are all here in this classroom called Earth. It takes a teacher to lead us to love it.

Building Cathedrals Not Walls

8 Responses to “To Lead A Child To Learn”

  1. I love every word of your letter and your definition of love as a verb, as a conscious action. Love, commitment, perseverance and resilience are what it takes to be a teacher.

  2. Missy Patten

    This was a beautiful message. As a coach for preschool teachers focusing on health and wellness my journey is all about love and care. THANK YOU TO ALL TEACHERS OUT THERE!

  3. Dawn Boxall

    I teach English as a Foreign Language in France and was wondering how this applies to foreign language learning. Are there any Montessori resources you’re aware of?


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