Monday, 6 March 2017

The hundred languages of democracy...

As I put this presentation together trains of thoughts keep flooding through... ideas for blogposts... new ideas, and old ones that I never got time to write have resurfaced...

Schools here in Sweden are supposed to be a place of democracy - but sometimes I have my doubts that all voices are being heard... as elsewhere in the world there is a strong bias for the written word here. Which means there is a heavy focus on reading and writing... which is NOT every child's preferred language of communication... I am reminded of this daily due to my son's extreme dislike of reading and writing... he does LOVE to be read to, something I do for him every day...

BUT if democracy is about having your voice heard, about participation, about being valued for who you are... then why are children with other communication preferences being discriminated against?

So I will, as part of this year of exploring the democratic classroom/preschool, try to unfold some of democracy's hundred languages...

One language of democracy is giving the children the power to take care of each other - to comfort each other, rather than the children always seeking an adult...

In the series of images below (a screen shot of my up and coming presentation that is under construction) a child had fallen over... at the beginning of the year the children would always come to us... or they would cry and all the children would just look at us expecting us to put it right... by far the majority of the time there was no scrape or blood or need for medical intervention, but as soon as the children saw I was with the child they resumed their play. It did not feel like a democratic community where we listened to each other, took care of each other... all powers of comfort resided with me, so I enabled the children to take this power and use it themselves by scaffolding and supporting how to take care of each other.

It was not easy - instinct is to go over and help the child and comfort them... but I needed to back off and allow the children to comfort each other. I was always watching... and if I felt the falls was to hard, to high, or there was a risk for real injury I was there like a shot, otherwise I let the children assess the situation... sometimes they rubbed of knees and hands, gave the required comfort and all was well... sometimes they brought the child to us so that cleaning and a plaster/bandaid could be applied.
In this series of photos I could see the child being me... my usual routine of checking the injury, then asking the child what they needed to feel better (not all children like hugs to feel better) - the child below in the photo REALLY needed a hug. Then I would always take the child to a bench where we would sit until they were ready to play again... so they knew they could have comfort as long (or as short) as they wanted

For me this is a democratic language. The people (here it is the children) taking care of each other. Listening to their needs and responding to them, knowing that each person is different and that that is OK.


I always make sure that all children are included... that every child in the group needs to be comforted and that every child should try comforting... for some children this was hard. To comfort others did not come naturally at first, but with time, and without force, there was an understanding of why comforting another was important and that it was OK to do it on your own terms... (we talked alot... this was a big part of the scaffolding)
not all children liked to be hugged... but when they realised the process meant that you could choose how you were comforted, this meant accepting help from others became easier. It also meant that the child learned that hugs were not necessary to comfort others... stroking a shoulder or arm would suffice... the process always went in many directions.

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