Use a compass instead of a map

In an episode of Workman (one of my favorite Korean variety shows), they went to a daycare and through that episode, I found out that they rearranged their education system for kindergarteners.

They adapted child-centered education wherein children are free to do and follow their curiosities in the daycare. They can play an instrument, play with toys available in the classroom, they could read a book, etc. Also, I don’t feel that “classroom” is even the right term for their space because it doesn’t look like a classroom at all.

This overall system promotes creativity as well as it builds up this confidence within the kid. In here, teachers do not say “sit still” or “behave”. Rather they encourage them to follow their desires and whatever they found interesting. They aren’t taught to score well during exams or be the best among the block. They promote communal activities (playing games with the whole class) and just being.

Honestly, even I think that kids as young as them should not take exams as soon as they have to go to school/daycare. They are too young to just sit still and I think the best thing that a school can instill in a child is to love learning. As they grow older and started taking exams, they will remember that how you do in a exam is not related to how much you learned.

I hope this could be applied to higher education as well. Personally, I am interested in psychology, biology, history, and journalism. I am currently in architecture program and I hope that there would be ways in which I could take up courses from other programs. Unfortunately, that does not exist yet lol

What I found interesting among a lot of master designers is that they integrates various subjects into their work. Some have took courses from other programs (ex. Steve Jobs), there are others who took up science programs but shifted to a design-related program, etc. Basically, they have knowledge on other subjects and that’s how they are able to design what they are designing right now.

In connection to everything I read, a few months ago this is what I started practicing: I used my hobbies, interests, and desires as my compass and disregarded the “map.” The map is pertaining to the pre-ordained life that society expects me to follow.

Since then, I never felt guilty of not following “the map”, I went my own path, following my inner soul. I read about psychology a lot, I read essays about creativity, I read novels, I read fiction and non-fiction, I write, etc. Anything that I found interesting or what I am curious in, I just follow it. And I never felt so happy and satisfied. Everyday I will learn something new. Gosh. If there is just any option to design my own curriculum, I would. And I would design it in a way that is filled with courses that I am interested in.

Srivinas Rao, author of The Art of Being Unmistakable, wrote about kindergartens and using a compass,

Kindergarten classrooms are utter chaos and true genius at the same time. The potential to discover a calling is available every single day. Then something happens. Somebody decided that you might stray too far off the beaten path, and gives you a map. They decide what is important for your future and these decisions become the destinations on the map.

….However, if I want to do interesting work, take risks, and see what I am really made of, I have to be willing to use a compass instead of a map.

Promoting self-learning and using a compass, allows each and everyone of us to just be ourselves. This is what I missed the most during summer breaks, it is when I just learn things without having to be graded for it.

And if you have been reading my previous posts, I mentioned this quote a few times now but it is amazing how each and every time I wrote this quote, I have something new to add. This is basically how curiosity starts, it starts as a small idea and over time as you search and search, you would have a lot of things related to it already and this is just basically it. This means that I am following my compasses very well.

Here is the quote from Austin Kleon:

“The lives of great thinkers teach us that learning is the verb of life. The trick to lifelong learning is to exercise your curiousity as much as you can and to let it guide you where it wants to go. To pay attention to what you pay attention to. To not worry too much about where things are going to lead. To learn for learning’s sake, not because it’s going to get you something, necessarily, but because you have faith that the things that interest you will help you become who you need to be.

Your interest and your desire and your instincts are your compass. They show you the way.

It’s a hard things to internalize, but once you do, it’s one of the most powerful things. It sets you free.”

Empowering the Invisibles

I’m currently binge-watching episodes of Workman. It is a Korean variety show that features Jang Sung Kyu, a former Korean announcer, working as a part-timer. Jobs differ in every episode. What I love about this variety show is that it focuses on empowering blue-collar jobs.

The episodes do not feature a sob story of how we should pity blue-collar workers because they get all dirty on their jobs (and yet are still earning less) but rather because of Jang Sung Kyu’s entertaining commentaries, every episode ends in a way that instead of pitying them and belittling their job, we will start to regard these jobs and workers as highly important to the society.

In this episode (check it out people, it has ENG subs available), Jang Sung Kyu and guest Lee Sang Yeob worked for a day at a wastewater treatment facility. They do have with them a worker from the facility, guiding and explaining to them their responsibilities along the way. Jang Sung Kyu interviewed the worker from the facility of what he feels about his job and by the look of his face, he feels happy and satisfied. He replied that millions of people living and working in Seoul are drinking the water that he helped clean and you can see how proud he is that his actions are part of something larger- keeping people alive and healthy. And this is why perspective matters.

In 1962, US President John F. Kennedy visited NASA and saw a janitor. He introduced himself to the janitor and asked what he does. The janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!

I think, sometimes, we are dissatisfied with our jobs because we sometimes only see our jobs on the surface instead of the depth of it like how it affects the larger whole. And this mindset can largely affect our performance when it comes to doing our jobs. What we think is what we become.

Spontaneity

Some jobs featured on Workman are blue-collar jobs at risk of being replaced by robots. But there are certain things that only humans can do.

In this episode, Jang Sung Kyu and guest Jay Park worked for a day at a tent bar. In the Philippines, a tent bar is similar to a carinderia. Throughout their jobs, Jang Sung Kyu took turns to talk with customers and playing games with them. He asked two customers (who he found out that are musicians by talking with them) to perform a song for them. What happened was heart-warming: an impromptu busking session. These are something initiated and done by humans- spontaneous moments that make us feel alive.

[P.S. The Workman variety show relies heavily on spontaneous moments such as this. Unlike most variety shows in Korea that are scripted, the Workman cannot control the customers that will buy so, Jang Sung Kyu, the commentator, is amazing for taking in things quickly and creating worthy scenes to watch.]

The Popular Comic re: jobs

2 types of parenting : wholesomememes

I know a lot of people (ahem relatives) who have a similar mindset like the blue woman in the comic- measuring success in terms of material wealth or job position or educational attainment.

What the Workman shows in their episodes is that every single job is important regardless of the pay and blue-collar jobs should be respected at the same level as CEOs are. These workers are what is mostly called the Invisibles, we mostly do not see them but when they made a mistake then we will know how important they are.

If suddenly a janitor slacks off in cleaning the streets, anyone passing by would be pissed out seeing all the trash and this would negatively affect their mood for the whole day. If a janitor does his job well, then the other workers of the organization can worry about various things and a messy room will not add to the list of their worries, and this will help them to think more clearly and work efficiently. If they do their job well, then a janitor would not worry about the company going bankrupt and looking for a new job.

At the end of the day, what matters is what you perceive as your job’s purpose.

For the people producing Workman, I think it’s bringing people bite-sized entertainment while empowering and humanizing the Invisibles.

Integrating Nooks Into School Designs

When I was a kid, I love to play under a table. I imagine that the table, where I am under in, is my house. Under the table, I could take on whatever roles I wanted: a mother, chef, teacher, bank teller, and a businesswoman. Together with my peers, we would imagine that the table is either a castle or a mansion. For most kids, they felt the same way but not necessarily under a table. Kids, today, create makeshift tents out of blankets or use a playhouse to execute their role play ideas.

Apparently, architects today had integrated playhouses or little nooks into their school designs.

The new Sandy Hook School has playhouses, or what they call tree houses, in various areas of the school. Jay Brotman, managing partner of Svigals + Partners explained that this is one of their efforts to, “…encourage compassion, prosperity, collaboration, and joy.” These small spaces allow young children to collaborate with each other.

In Japan, AN Kindergarten has little reading nooks shaped like playhouses are at the center of the space. Little nooks are located on the glass balustrades, independently standing on the ground floor, and even under the stairs. They added these features into the design as the architects explained, “In recent years, when children’s physical ability and creativity have been decreased, we expect that they can start improving by setting a variety of playgrounds indoors at different places.

Flower Kindergarten by Jungmin Nam
Flower Kindergarten | © Kyungsub Shin

Flower Kindergarten in Seoul, South Korea has a similar play den under the stairs. Architect Jungmin Nam, head of OA Lab (the studio that designed that school), said that “The stair itself becomes a playground. The space created below and above the stair is utilized as a children’s play den at children’s scale.”

Aside from being a place where collaborative play and learning can thrive, playhouses or little nooks are where children can do free play. Free play is an act where anyone who plays will not be intervened by an authoritative figure.

Why are playhouses and even as simple as makeshift tents out of blankets are loved by kids

From the book, Raising Curious, Creative, Confident Kids: The Pestalozzi Experiment in Child-Based Education, principal and author Rebeca Wild wrote,

“Playhouse provides a place for secret games and undisturbed conversations in an atmosphere of privacy.”

She explained further why playhouses are important,

“In such a prepared environment that offers many stimulating attractions but excludes the possibility of any pressure exercised by adults, it becomes surprisingly clear that each and every child, provided that it has no severe disturbances owing to disrespectful or inattentive treatment, possesses a clear inner direction or guiding force, as it were. This is what leads the child in its choice of activities [free play], makes it possible for the child to find its own rhythm and allows the child to achieve a new balance with each new activity, if permitted to– follow this inner directive force, the child is able to act and react as a self-confident, happy, and helpful human being, despite its tender age and to enjoy each day to the fullest.”

Lastly, “Even at only three or four years of age, many have lost confidence in their own inner direction as a result of the constant intervention and know-it-all behavior of the adults who love them. Some may not even had the complete love and attention of their parents when they came into the world. The purpose of which is to enable them to have basic truth and confidence in life itself.

Playhouses provide children an opportunity to do their own choice of activities without being intervened by an adult. In little reading nooks, children can read and even talk about the book that they are reading to their peers without being conscious of an authoritative figure (if they were in a library). They could even role-play the books that they read, using the little nooks as their backdrop.

What if young students aren’t given an environment where they can play freely?

Author and psychologist Peter Gray wrote in an article entitled The Culture of Childhood: We’ve Almost Destroyed It,

“By increasing the amount of time spent in school, expanding homework, harping constantly on the importance of scoring high on school tests, banning children from public spaces unless accompanied by an adult, and replacing free play with adult-led sports and lessons, we have created a world in which children are almost always in the presence of a supervisor, who is ready to intervene, protect, and prevent them from practicing courage, independence, and all the rest that children practice best with peers, away from adults.  I have argued elsewhere (Gray, 2011, and here) that this is why we see record levels of anxietydepressionsuicide, and feelings of powerlessness among adolescents and young adults today.

In conclusion, rather than writing little nooks or playhouses must be integrated into school designs, designing spaces where children can play without an intervening adult, and a space that has a lot of affordances (ways for it to be used) are a must. Designing spaces where kids can grow holistically is an investment for a better world tomorrow.

 

References:

Frearson, A. (2016, February). Flower Kindergarten by Jungmin Nam features curvy classrooms and colourful corridors. Retrieved from Dezeen: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/02/26/flower-kindergarten-oa-lab-curvy-colourful-classrooms-seoul-south-korea/

Gray, P. (2016, October 31). The Culture of Childhood: We’ve Almost Destroyed It. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201610/the-culture-childhood-we-ve-almost-destroyed-it

Wild, R. (2000). Raising Curious, Creative, Confident Kids: The Pestalozzi Experiment in Child-based Education. Shambhala.

Winston, A. (2016, March). Hibino Sekkei and Youji no Shiro’s kindergarten features house-shaped reading nooks. Retrieved from Dezeen: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/03/03/hibino-sekkei-youji-no-shiro-atsugi-nozomi-kindergarten-house-shaped-reading-nooks-kanagawa-prefecture-japan/

Yalcinkaya, G. (2017, October). New Sandy Hook school is designed to “prevent unwanted intrusions of any kind”. Retrieved from Dezeen: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/10/26/new-sandy-hook-school-designed-prevent-unwanted-intrusions-kind-news-architecture/