Teach English in ShuAnghe Zhen - Huhehaote Shi — Hohhot

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Every adult knows that a child’s inner world strongly differs from that of an adult person and that the process of growing up consists of several subsequent, but fundamentally different phases. How this works in each individual case is still a great mystery. Knowing about child development can help a great deal in understanding children, and letting them develop. Let us therefore take a short look at the ideas and findings of Jean Piaget, Tom Weisner and Alexander Neill concerning the child development. According to the 20th century Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, children experience four stages of development on their journey towards maturity. Piaget’s theory is focused on cognitive development, i.e., mental processes such as perceiving and reasoning. His theory considers emotional behaviour in the context of mental processes. The first Sensory-motor stage (ages birth to 2) is characterised by reactive behaviour, and the absence of real thinking. The child’s understanding of the world involves only perceptions and objects with which it has had direct experience. An infant does not realise that objects exist apart from itself. Toward the end of this phase, the ability to form primitive mental images develops as the infant acquires object permanence. At the end of 24 months the child can understand that even though she can’t see a hidden object, it still exists. It is in the second stage, the Preoperational stage (ages 2 through 7) that children’s thought differ the most from that of adults. In this phase the child is not yet able to think logically. Children in this developmental phase rely completely upon their mental images and symbols. For example, when wanting to know someone or something, adults would be interested in facts and figures, whilst the child would be interested how someone or something feels, smells, sounds etcetera. The child is in this stage completely egocentric. It sees people and objects around it only from its own point of view. This is not selfishness but rather self-centeredness. This is also the age of curiosity. Pre-schoolers are always questioning and investigating new things and since they know the world from their limited experience, they make up the explanations when they don’t have one. In the third stage of Concrete operations (ages 7 through 11) a child is able to perform mental operations that permit it to think about actions that were previously performed physically. The child discovers logic and develops the ability to sort objects in a certain order. It also can mentally reverse the direction of a thought. For example, the child is able to trace the route to school and then follow it back home, or knows where it left a toy without a hit-or-miss exploration of the entire house. This phase is marked by the ability of conservation, which means that the child is able to see the objects or quantities remain the same, despite a change in their physical appearance. For example, children in this phase understand that if they pour orange juice from a normal glass to the taller one, the amount stays the same. As a result of these abilities children get to know themselves better and begin to understand that their thoughts and feelings are unique and not necessarily those of others. That means that children learn to be empathic. In the fourth stage, the Formal operational phase (ages 11 through 16), the child can deal not only with now, but also with hypothetical situations in the future. It is now able to look at a problem from several points of view, and conceive all the possible ways that problem might be solved. The adolescent can think about such abstract concepts as space and time and develops an inner value system and a sense of moral judgement. Professor Tom Weisner, emeritus professor of anthropology and psychiatry at UCLA, includes the social context of a child’s upbringing as a fundament of its development. He stresses that the well-being of the child implies the ability to actively participate in the activities that society thinks are important and desirable. In order to understand child development, it is especially important, from the point of view of the Western world (WEIRD: Western Educated Industrial Rich Democratic) to acknowledge the social context children grow up in, in the “rest” of the word. The Summerhill school, founded in 1921 by Scottish pedagogue Alexander Sutherland Neill, represents a unique way of dealing with the development of children. This school deals with children of elementary and secondary school level and has as its starting point the notion of “freedom versus licence”. It endeavours to eliminate any kind of adult coercion in education and upbringing of children, and has introduced the idea of community self-governance. Neill felt that an emotional education freed the intellect to follow what it pleased. This education usually entailed copious amounts of play and distance from the adult anxieties of work and ambition.