Sunday, 8 November 2015

Structure for freedom

Its been a busy few weeks as I settle into my role as pedagogical director at Filosofiska ... which means there has not been so much time to write here on my blog...
but I have been reflecting a whole heap...

On Friday I participated in part of the course for medical students where they are studying neurology and psychology... (funnily the same students my husband will be teaching in a few weeks) - they are doing a project right now on how to assist preschool pedagogues meet the needs of their group... identifying problem areas and making goals... I was up at the front of the lecture hall with the lecturer as he role-played with me a possible dialogue they might have at the preschools... first incorrectly, and then correctly... it was one of the strangest things I have ever done... adlibbing to something there was very little preparation for, with a diary he had filled out about my reactions to the group and observations he had made about my group...

But it got me thinking about play and the freedom to play and how that is taken away when the group is dysfuntional.

A dysfunctional group is stressed, focussed on the problems of maybe one,two ot more children disrupting play for whatever reasons so that play does not flow as usual.

It made me realise just how much structure is sometimes required for free-play to exist... which seemed totally absurd.

But when I got thinking about it maybe it has something to do with self-discipline... some children are totally lacking any of it and will do whatever is on the top of their head (repeatedly) without reflection to how it will impact others, just because it feels good to them. So before their own self-discipline kicks in, we, as adults, have to act as their self discipline. Supporting them to understand the social play codes.

In The Art of Listening I explored how we as adults often use the words "are you listening" instead of "are you obeying", because frankly they probably have listened they simply have chosen not to act upon the words... and how can we then support the children to make better life-decisions - as often these "are you listening" phrases were connected to safety and creating more positive social interactions... (not just simply obeying an adult).

Lining up and rules have been an essential part of this descipline... not just following rules blindly... because you learn nothing by that... but by understanding why we have the rules...
Lining up is a post that explores these ideas...

I have been working with the same children for just about three years now... and as the children grow and develop the less they need me to act as their self discipline... Its wonderful, making myself invisible and making their play visible.

But this free play stuff did not come easily for the children either... it seems like they are conditioned to seek out an adult to solve their problems... if they have a disagreement, if someones says something they think is not nice, if they fall over... Its been a process to hand over the power back to the children... instead of them staring at us when a friend falls over, they now go to their friend and comfort them. We are always watching and making sure that the level of risk is appropriate... to big/hard a fall and we will be there... but a minor fall the children can manage themselves... I remember a few weeks ago when the fall had been a little higher than I felt comfortable with I went over like a shot and two of my 4 and 5 year olds repeatedly told me "but we are here, we can take care of her" - it made me happy, and thanked them for their help and their consideration and explained how we were always watching and if we felt the fall was very big then we would always be there... Sometimes the children have made this judgement by themselves when a child has been sadder than what their abilities to comfort could manage... they have come to us and asked for help... and this asking for help i consider and important skill... but this just standing there watching a friend be sad and expecting the adult to take care of I felt disempowered children...

My post Scaffolding is also about rules and the need for them to create safety... it is when we are safe that we can play and learn best. Understanding why we have rules and being aware of the safety issues is essential for children... and adults.

So what structures do you have to enable freedom for the children to play...?
here the structure was finding a safe way to explore heights to conquer fears as well as turn taking and supporting each other

the talking rings were a form of structure to enable children to talk freely and to know that they were being listened to... that their words were being valued by their friends.

the structure was learning about who you could make paitn marks on and who you could not... not just an art exploration but also learning about how we all play differently... the rule was you HAD to ask first before making a paint mark on another... soem were very keen on this play.. while others absolutely did not...

rules for risky play.... YES we can play with sticks... YES we can fight with sticks... but we need to have total control... once we have body contact we finish the game (as experience tells me that is when they are getting tired and an accident is likely to happen - and the children know why this rule is in action... and that is JUST as important)

more risk taking in a structured form... so that they can apply it in a free form... thinking about the surface they land on, thinking about turn taking, thinking about taking care of each other...

the together paitings have a lot of structure in them in order to paint freely... but also a way to communicate and solve conflicts

paiting within the lines... understanding that your actions affect another perons reaction... if you do not concentrate and keep within the lines then it will go into the space of another person's painting area... what does this mean and how can we be a part of the social interaction of cause and affect... (read the kandinsky painting post)

Blowing bubbles... instead of at the lunch table where it disturbed many (including those who were not keen eaters, which meant they ate nothing and then had low energy in the afternoon) we created the structure of bubble blowing time at other point of the day

and it is important to remember that children are not just learning all of this for future use, but to be active social being right now too.

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