Written by Frances Peacock
“What the hand does, the mind remembers.” Maria Montessori
If you want to watch a child learn something new right before your eyes, put an object in his hands.
Any object at all.
You’ll see him turn the thing around a few times. He’ll feel its edges. He’ll see if it has any moving parts. He’ll wonder what will happen if he bounces it on the floor or pitches it against a wall. Most certainly, he’ll ask you what it’s called.
After a minute or two, he’ll hand the object back to you, and he’ll tell you all about it.
He’s like a detective with the thing: He’ll know what it’s made of, how much it weighs, every color that’s on it.
He holds it for only a moment, but the item has left its mark.
Something new has entered his world.
An object in the hand seems to go right through the fingertips. It forms an impression in the mind – a connection that wasn’t there before, and cannot be erased. Now, there is a memory.
A teacher knows this.
I give a boy twenty wooden Popsicle sticks. I see him build a pioneer’s flatboat.
I pass a girl plain white paper. She sketches a bare winter tree.
I hand a boy a gold medal. He knows he’s the winner in math.
I pass around a glass jar that holds a praying mantis. Everybody in the class will look the bug in the eyes and say hello.
Time spent with an object changes a person. An experience has been added that wasn’t there before. It will harden, like a layer of a rock, and it will last forever.
A teacher can actually open up a child’s hand and put in something for his future. The thing from the teacher becomes a piece of his history. He won’t forget it. He’ll build upon it. He’ll grow up with it. He’ll reach back for it when he’s older.
That’s why I’m careful.
An object in the hand leaves a mark on the soul.
It’s a teacher’s job to find the appropriate things. When I place a thing in their hands, they take them with them – out the classroom door, home to dinner, into their dreams.
The children trust, and a teacher discerns.
The world is full of a number of things…but what things are good for children?
I’ll put nothing too sharp in their hands. Nothing too rough. Nothing their small hands aren’t ready to handle. Never too big of a load.
The children are curious, and a teacher protects.
I give nothing that brings them harm or trouble. Nothing that starts tears or causes worry. Nothing to set them down a bad path.
It’s a teacher’s privilege and responsibility.
Never a stone if they ask for a loaf. Never a snake if they ask for a fish.
Nothing but things that will take them forward, with joy, to flourish, out into the world.