First Grade: How to Start Learning Properly
To mark the beginning of the academic year in Russia, the Global Women Media prepared a series of articles devoted to education. Natalia Popova is a teacher who practices health-promoting education methods based on the principles of natural conformity. She shared her expert view in an interview with the news agency. Today, the teacher not only keeps bringing up the younger generation but also enjoys sharing her experience with colleagues.
elementary school teacher, expert in holistic learning and teaching methods based on the principles of natural conformity
Natalia Popova is a teacher interested in the holistic development and education of children. She graduated from the Abakan State Pedagogical Institute and completed Natalia Maslova’s courses on methods of teaching based on the principles of natural conformity. Natalia Popova also has experience of working at schools and kindergartens.
The expert believes that a properly formed mindset during the elementary school years is the key to a child’s effective development, sound health, and happiness. It is important to promote the equal use of the left and right hemispheres of the brain from the very childhood. All people with no exception are naturally endowed with the ability to think not only logically but also figuratively. The task of elementary school teachers is not only to teach the younger generation to read, write, and count but also to help children preserve that valuable gift.
In her interview with the Global Women Media news agency, Natalia Popova shared her vision of the main value of holistic education and listed her approaches in her teaching practice.
– Natalia, what is holistic education? Why is it particularly interesting?
– In the first turn, holistic education is aimed at forming a person’s holistic thinking, which is also called bihemispheric thinking. In fact, most curricula in secondary schools are based on memorizing facts, the development of logical thinking, and analyzing information. All that is really important. However, such mental work only activates the left hemisphere of our brain and hardly engages the right one.
The brain is an organ having two hemispheres. Using only one of them is like walking on one leg.
The right hemisphere of our brain, the development of which is usually not the focus of standard school curricula, is no less powerful and important. It is responsible for imagination, associative thinking, and creativity in all its manifestations.
From the very birth, every person is naturally endowed with an ability to perceive information holistically, i.e. to process it using both hemispheres of brain. Scientists have conducted numerous studies proving that holistic thinking is natural for humans. However, that process is often distorted at school when we are immersed in rote learning and solution of logical tasks. Statistically, only about 8% of people retain the ability to think holistically by their adulthood.
Being a maximally natural process, holistic thinking contributes to learning more effectively and reducing stress levels during the processing of new information.
During my classes, I use different creative exercises making it possible to engage both hemispheres of the brain equally. That helps students form holistic thinking and perception of information in terms of not only logic but also images and associations, which is especially important for elementary schoolchildren. At that very stage, we teach children how to learn. All their further learning depends on how they think. And, in fact, learning is a continuous process in today’s world.
Moreover, we pay much attention to the prevention of children’s health problems. For example, we do exercises that are good for their eyesight and correct posture. The main principle in education as well as in medicine is to ‘do no harm’. Therefore, it is important to make sure that immersion in learning is as beneficial as possible and at the same time it doesn’t affect their psychological and physical state negatively.
– When did you understand that you were interested in a holistic education based on the principles of natural conformity?
– I was very lucky with my university. I was trained to become an elementary school teacher at the Abakan State Pedagogical Institute. We had forward-looking lecturers who introduced us to Shalva Amonashvili’s principles of humane pedagogy, Vladimir Bazarny’s health-preserving technologies, and other innovative approaches to children’s upbringing and education.
After my graduation, I was still very enthusiastic about what we had been taught. I continuously kept developing as an educator and dreamed of working at a school. One day I came to Natalia Maslova’s course methods of teaching based on the principles of natural conformity. That approach was really close to my understanding of high-quality education. Subsequently, it became the basis of my teaching practice. Just as I dreamed, I got a job at a school. Later I’ve trained two classes of schoolchildren there.
The holistic approach to education based on the principles of natural conformity became popular among not only children and parents but also my colleagues.
Over time, I set up a methodological platform at a pedagogical college in our city. There I supervised the work of school teachers, pedagogues of that very college, employees the German Cultural Centre, and kindergarten teachers. In a word, I dealt with all those people interested in the approaches I was using in my practice. I also had a group of students with whom I studied a special methodology course based on the principles of natural conformity. The young professionals not only gained new knowledge but also saw how our colleagues organise their educational activities at kindergartens and elementary schools. We can even say that an entire community has been formed there.
Three years ago, I found myself in Moscow thanks to a happy chain of events. For some time, I worked at the Lopatinskaya School. Today, I am engaged in the first recruitment for the first grade at the Responsible Education private school of the Institute of for the Humanities and Information Technologies (IGUMO).
– What are your most significant professional projects?
– Apart from those projects related to teaching methods based on the principles of natural conformity, I have a number of other interesting initiatives.
For example, I am successfully developing the Gagarin Squad with schoolchildren (1-8 grades). That project is aimed at the patriotic upbringing of the younger generation. Together with the children, we regularly do different good deeds and contribute to our schools, society, country, and the planet in general with our activities.
We carry out another interesting project together with the Association of Russian Libraries with the support of the Presidential Grants Foundation. The ‘Reading School - Reading Mum’ initiative engages not only teachers and children but also parents.
In my opinion, reading really gives the best learning experience. Family is always what fosters the love of books in children. Even before their school years, they start reading thanks to the role models of their parents.
The love of reading and cognizing the world can be compared to a torch. It is impossible to light it on time to ignite the interest of a child.
Book is a storehouse of knowledge that helps parents and teachers instil the right values and life principles in children. Kind fairy tales and stories contribute to proper upbringing. By learning about kind characters and their stories, a child gets the patterns of behavior that can become his or her guidelines in the future.
In addition, reading brings parents and children closer together. It helps them spend time with pleasure and benefit from it jointly. Moreover, reading gives rise to a great deal of topics for discussion and reflection.
– Is it your true dream to be a teacher?
– I am absolutely sure that being a teacher is truly my dream and vocation. I fell in love with teaching after my own going to school for the first time on September 1. My teacher named Galina impressed me so much that learning and teaching is still something what excites me. I remember my first lesson at my school very well. The environment teacher was showing us a map, telling us how big our planet is, and how we can take care of it. I was looking at her with bated breath during the whole lesson. I was thinking about becoming a teacher like her once I grow up.
I believe that the personality of the teacher plays one of the most important roles in education even if their school students don’t want to devote their lives to teaching. If the teacher manages to inspire schoolchildren, their school life will be filled with positive emotions.
– What activities apart from teaching inspire you?
– In my spare time, I like to cultivate the earth, to grow fruit, berries, and vegetables in my garden and orchard. I’m fond of travelling and exploring my home country.
Art and culture inspire me a lot. I like reading books and going to the theatre. I believe that my enthusiasm is contagious for my students.
– What would you wish the first graders at the beginning of this academic year?
– Love your studies, your school, your teachers, and your homeland. Always go towards your dreams!
Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov