Sunday, 14 September 2014

Reflecting on the week

Looking back on this week I see the children's learning and interests... their play is filled with magic powers, fairies, witches and shops.
We have explored their understanding of money - by listening to them and then talking with each other (us teachers) about how we interpret their words, their concepts and how do we incorporate that into play to extend their thinking and also to explore it deeper, enabling us to understand their world better. It is quite clear, though, that children connect money with food shopping - and that they seem to think you can buy money there... even though we will be continuing with magic powers after the fairy tea party, as this has been a stronger and longer line of play and connects wonderfully with our exploration of fairies, we will not leave the idea of money and shopping.

We have also seen, better now, how our new weekly schedule supports the children in seeing their own learning in their play, how it challenges their thinking and how it allows for multiple ways of approaching the same idea/philosophical dialogue.

We have also seen that these different days link into each other and support each other... at the moment there is a sense of satisfaction even though the children have not "mastered" all of this...
but, I feel, they are not supposed to either... I don't believe any of us are supposed to get it straight away... there has to be a bit of a struggle, there needs to be that we work together and support them in their learning journey.

I do not believe that what we are doing is beyond their capabilities, I do believe that they are interested in making decisions and being active in the group, but I also believe they need time to practice this...

This Friday all of the children wanted to be part of the reflection and planning meeting... three of them though showed with their constant lack of respect for other's ideas that they were not yet ready and were reminded several times that we all need to listen respectfully to each other's ideas and that the meeting was not just to have a personal monologue (OK I did not say it exactly that to them) - they left the meeting to go and help elsewhere at the same to reminding we could try again next week... the fact is that even though they did not want to really participate this time either, they had made huge progress from last week, and they were thanked for the input that they had made in the reflection part...

Of course part of the problem is that some children like to waffle on, this does make it quite difficult for other children to focus/listen... so we are ALL becoming better at making this meeting better... the children are learning about how to participate and how to not just start telling a random story, we as teachers are becoming better at supporting the children to keep to topic, with the promise that we can talk/listen to their stories during lunch, later or another day...

Learning to participate in a dialogue is not just about contributing words, it is about contributing relevant ideas. During Fridays we have a 20-30 minute long song meeting in the morning (including fruit snack) free-play outdoors for one and a half hours, then back inside for this reflection and planning meeting which is 15-20 minutes long - the rest of the day is lunch, rest, afternoon snack and lots and lots of free play... every afternoon is free-play (with some arranged activities to choose from) and all mornings include free-play too.
outside creating fairy houses with the many sticks lying around. Some house were 2D creations, the lower one on the right included and entrance/door to get in. The windfall fruit was collected and arranged as fairy food. We spent 1.5 hours playing freely here before the reflection/planing meeting.

I truly believe that these meetings will flow better as they are meaningful for the children, and that we as teachers will need to support them less and less as the children practice them more... Participating in meetings is not that easy... My children at home have been commentating about how adults are not able to do this even... we have the elections going on here in Sweden at the moment and my two 13 year old daughters have been watching some of the debates. They giggled at the fact that these adults interrupted each other, got frustrated with each other saying "let me finish what I was saying..." and even mentioned that my preschoolers were better at taking turns in talking (which made me giggle, but I got their point)...
Being in a dialogue with others is not easy. It does need practice. I find I am becoming better in dialoging with others as I facilitate the children's dialogues... I have become more aware of the structure of a dialogue, of the flow, of how to respect each other's ideas even when you do not agree, how to be passionate about what you believe without reducing someone elses passion.

The competent child.
It does not mean that they can do everything now. But I believe that it does mean they can learn. It does not mean that they will learn immediately but that it will be picked up bit by bit by having the chance to test it out in different ways... and that is where we come in... we see how the children react, we see how they learn and we make sure that the challenge is hard but not too hard.
Frustration - I think we all have the right to feel that... without it where would the learning be? I need to feel frustration when soemthing does not work so that I can work on why it didn't work as I thought, and how I can adapt it or exchange it for a new idea... and in the same way the children need to feel frustration... not the kind that makes them feel hopeless (I don't want that kind either) - but the kind that feels like the struggle of climbing a mountain and the joy that is felt when you see the view from the top. If it IS rock-climbing then they need the right tools, they need to learn the right techniques... we cannot expect the children to get up their on their own without any knowledge or experience... that is what we share with them as educators. We need to listen and to observe to ensure that they have the right tools at the right time... no point in giving them a "boat" when what they need is "rope".

I shared this image on my FB page during the week.

I have also reflected upon how children seem to connect adulthood with making decisions... but that this decision making is all about themselves and doing what they want. When we are giving children decisions to make it is nearly always something to do with making a a choice for themself... do you want strawberry or chocolate ice-cream? Do you want to play in or outside? Do you want meatballs or fish for dinner? It seems then that we are teaching children that decision making is making a personal choice of what you want to do... yet adult decsion-making has very little to do with that. It is nearly always a series of compromises, it is nearly always taking into consideration other people, it is far too often not linked to something you want to do, but something you have to or need to do. Children do not get to see these processes. They go through their childhood longing to be an adult and to make decsions believing that they get to do what they want... and so of course when you become an adult you suddenly realise that you got to do what yout wanted more often as a child... children are not given real and meaningful decisions to make.
This is why we are having our meetings on Fridays, because the decision making is REAL... they don't get to do what they want because they have to take into consideration is it possible, does it cost money, is it safe, do others want to do that/is it interesting for more than yourself?
This means at the moment these dialogues are tricky because the children have not been given the chance to think about making decisions for others too... of being responsible for their decision making and for listening to how others react to the results of the decision making.

We share with the children how making decisions is not always easy for us as adults, we have to talk a lot with each other, that we don't always agree with each other's ideas but that we always listen and try to find the best outcome for the group... that often we do things not because it is what we as adults want to do, but because we know that the children want to do them. By being part of these dialogues where we are open with our learning processes, the children realise that we are equals as learners... the only difference is that I have 40 more years of experience to add to my learning journey, something I will share with them... but that I am learning from them all the time as well.

This coming Friday I am not sure how much time we will have for the reflection and planning meeting, as it is the International Fairy Tea Party then... it might just be that the fairies leave some plans for us, so that we can stay busy with our imaginations...

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