Monday, 3 March 2014

Listening and interpretation

Have you ever been to a lecture or workshop that is just so interesting that it fires you up and ideas begin to well up inside in such a noisy manner that it becomes almost impossible to hear what is being said... sure I hear the words... but am I understanding them?

How often do you think this is happening to children? How often do we give them the thinking pauses to allow their thoughts to catch up and then enable them to listen... ?
I certainly wish that at lectures that we were given that opportunity... instead there are time limits and everyone tries to squash in as much detail in a short a space as possible... knowing full well that if they go over their time then the next person will not have their allotted time to talk... (and at the same time I DO want to hear as much as possible... BUT maybe we should be allotting longer time spans to some of those great ECE inspirational people?)

I know when I presented at the Youth Philosophy Conference at the end of January, that my allotted time was just so short that it made it impossible to talk... I had to keep to a script... because I CAN babble (you might have noticed that in these posts). BUT, when you have to keep a fast space you are not REALLY allowing your audience to listen... to allow them to interpret your words, your ideas...

This is all things I am beginning to think more and more deeply about as the date for my flight to Toronto at the end of April nears and the listening/philosophy with children workshop I will hold there is being formed to meet this different audience... an audience where I want to experiment with time, listening and interpretation... the workshop - giving the pauses to allow interpretation and for this interpretation to be shared...

Just as we should be doing with children... giving the children the time to interpret what we are saying... and the respect that we have interpreted their words and their actions and to take the time to ASK them - "do you mean... ? have I understood you right?"

In our philosophy sessions I read back to the children what I have written down... I do my best to write down the childrens words verbatum (and noises and pauses) but it is STILL how I have heard them... by reading them back to the children at the end of the session, letting them know that I am asking them if I have written down their ideas right, that the children get the opportunity to correct me... and they do sometimes... and the corrections are written down. On occasion they expand their idea...

BUT I don't think we should be afraid of our interpretations... as long as we are aware that this is what we are doing... that we do give ourselves the peace to be able to HEAR the children and not just let our ideas outvoice the children's ideas...
it probably will invlove that there is a slower pace and more repetition as some ideas are revisited and revisited and the same play needs to be played over and over... this does not mean that I am NOT introducing ideas all the time... I plant seeds all the time, I listen to the children and try to find the activity, the materials etc that I think the children need to extend their play and to extend their learning...

Some things are obvious... they can tell us with words exactly what they want... other things we observe in their play... and we can also see/hear their development - socially and cognitively (things they cannot yet see/hear themselves). These will always be our interpretation of the children's actions and development... but by entering a dialogue with others and hearing THEIR interpretation and discovering new perspectives of the same child, the same group, the same activity - or confirming your own interpretations - then we are better able to HEAR the children and not just our own personal interpretation - as we practice being open to listening to other's we also practice listening to the children.

Of course this will be a collective adult interpretation - and this is why interacting with documentation together with the children is essential - to allow them to see not only that we value what they have to say, but also to allow them to understand that interpreting someone else is not always so easy... that in actual fact it is quite easy to misinterpret... and that EVERYONE can do this, that we all have our own perspectives... perspectives that will enrich an idea but can also complicate an idea...
one item in front of us... many interpretations of what it is, how it can be used, how to explore it... one child can say one thing that will trigger a whole different series of ideas in another...

Just scratching the surface here... need to listen and interpret some more... I have not even started with the ideas of how adult interpret each other....



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