Francesco Tonucci

Teacher and educator

"Educate means "to bring out or bring forth what is within"

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When I am asked what I do for a living, since I don't like to say I'm a psychologist or educator, I tend to say I'm a "childologist". I say this in all seriousness, as I think what I've done with my life is try to understand and get to know about childhood. To recapture what it means to be a child, because, as adults, we should already know all about it, given that we were once children ourselves.

Schools teach boring, tedious things. If this is true, schools are going to find it difficult to achieve the results they want, which is to help develop people. And it is not me saying this, but an important person called Bruner, who is a US psychologist who died a few years ago, who said that students must not be allowed to be bored in school. He said this must be avoided at all costs. However, unfortunately it does happen. Bruner talked about pressure. Children spend a lot of time at school. Many hours a day. Many days of the week. Many weeks per month. Many months a year. And many years overall. It's really difficult to live with this pressure all the time. It doesn't achieve anything.

I think schools should stop teaching pupils in classrooms. I am convinced that the classroom is not a natural environment. Often, lots of classrooms within a school look the same. With more or less the same furniture and the same things on the walls. Isn't that a bit strange? Imagine if all the rooms in a house were the same. It would be like a horror movie. Furthermore, everything is taught in these cloned places. Children must learn about mathematics, languages, drawing, music and science using the same table, the same chair and in the same position. Can we not do things differently? We should have workshops rather than classrooms. And each workshop should be for a different subject. Children would have to walk. They would have to leave one place to go to another. They wouldn't have far to walk, but it would be something. They wouldn't always be seated in the same place. Many of the workshops wouldn't even need chairs. I like this idea a lot. The idea of open school. A school would be 'open' in two ways. Firstly, children would leave the school premises to learn about nature and the social world, and secondly, the school would welcome contributions from the outside world.

"School cannot be boring. Children can only truly grow in a relaxed and fun environment".

20 or 30 years ago, this was the norm. Children would be taken out of school to learn about their surroundings, to visit the neighborhood and get to know the city. There would be excursions to observe nature, where they could collect things and take them back to the classroom. Also, schools would ask parents to explain about what they did for a living and invite grandparents in to talk about their lives, which was very interesting.

Examinations are a way of evaluating and measuring everyone at the same level. Right? If a child is very good at answering the questions, they get a very high score: lots of eights. But, what does an eight mean? Where's the starting point? If a child got a nine before and now they have an eight, it means they got worse. It's seen as a negative thing. But, the child has done nothing wrong. However, if a child got a four in the past and now they get a six, that's should be a big deal. That's why exams that test everyone in the same way are grossly unfair. It should not be a school's aim to make everyone the same. Instead, schools should recognize that children are different and do not have the same abilities. Schools should value diversity. Nowadays, schools accept all kinds of children. Smart children, children that are less smart, etc. When I was small, children who had issues went to a 'different school' for kids who had problems learning. Now, all these children are taught in regular schools.

Teachers must be trustworthy people. You should be able to trust them. I don't like the idea that they're like another set of parents. I think one mother and father is enough. I would like teachers to be another important person in a child's life, who is respected but kind. People often think that to be respected you must be aloof. This is not true at all. The best teachers have always had students who love them. This is what we must try to achieve.

This cartoonist, schoolteacher and educator is a firm defender of children's rights. He has written books entitled "Los niños y las niñas piensan de otra manera" ("Children think differently") and " La ciudad de los niños" ("The city of children") and believes that schools should be more open, with workshops replacing conventional classrooms and where children decide what they want to invest more time in.