Friday 9 January 2015

An interview with Ellen.

Today was my last day working side by side with Ellen.
There is a feeling within me of sadness - to not have her there - but there is also a feeling of excitement... as I know this is a start of new adventures... for Ellen who will embark on a masters in philosophy and also for me as I work closely with Lena again.
And I also know that Ellen will never leave me... all those dialogues, thinking together, challenging our thinking, finding common ground that we could both wholly believe in, our fearless belief in testing things out together with the children... of failing and succeeding with the children... all of this will stay with me and in the many posts I have written in the last 18 months about our adventures and our learning journey.

I wanted to "interview" Ellen today about philosophy within our preschool... here is that interview... we had just 20 minutes at our disposal...

Three key words
  • listening
  • taking a step back
  • imagination
Three positives
  • to really question, from the foundation, the relationship between adults and children - between children and children... relationships with each other
  • insights into the heads of these small people - their thoughts - that often become insights into my own thoughts
  • the whole thing about logical thinking as a term that needs to be positively problematised, and explored - how do we think logically, and what is it?
Three negatives
  •  the conflict between having a complete/finished/set idea about what thinking is and creativity and openness. (we talked about how sometimes our adult need to see things as open and creative actually closes our thinking, as we have a set idea as to what that creative and open thinking is)
  • the form of the dialogue does not suit all children (we talked about how we have tried various forms of philosophy over the last 18 months - from sitting and talking, through art, through movement etc etc...)
  • maybe that I never got to test that the children asked questions (questions have always been based on the children's thinking, play etc, but they have seldom come with their own questions... although lately have started to show interest in this) - that it might be coming to the right time soon.
Maybe these responses are very much about my role (we then discussed that our roles are important and that reflecting upon how we feel about our roles is then of equal importance, and not to just reflect on the children and the activities)

Words of Wisdom (with reference to philosophy means "love of wisdom)
The first I think of is to allow the small processes to take time - to pause - it is "asviktigt" ("really important" in Ellen language) that the setting is soaked in philosophy and I believe that everything, no matter how small, even the dustbunnies - that we should not let the small things pass us - to not stress. That not doing something is doing something.
To not be afraid of letting things flow - that is where creativity is born. 
To dare to make mistakes with the children "we didn't manage to do anything" - to not always push forwards on principal but because it is meaningful. We need people who put on the brakes. (We talked about how often it feels like people do things to document about them rather than document the learning journey)
We need to take thinking pauses in our daily lives - and often.
The adult perspective of having to sum up each day - adding up what the children have achieved - that should not be the goal (the genuine, meaningful learning should be the goal).

The challenge
To let all of this happen (each person (adult/child) make their mistakes, each person slow down and think and flow) at the same time as creating a group feeling...

Although, as I write this now, I see that Ellen's challenge is actually not something new - but a continuation of what we have been doing all the time - this meeting of individual and group - of slowing down to create time to think... but I believe we need to get better and better at it. It sometimes feels like the world is getting faster and faster... and there is less time to think and reflect - it is all about do-do-do. Yes, we want the children to be capable, to be able "to do" - but to do with an understanding of what it is they do - and the effects and consequences of their actions on themselves and others...

I also found it interesting that the problem with finding positives about philosophy with preschoolers was limiting it to just three... and that the problem with finding negatives was to actually find three. Which indicates that we are on a successful learning journey with the children...

Ellen, darling,
it's been a blast. I have learned so much and I am so grateful on this stretch of my learning journey that I have had you as my travel companion. I wish you all the best - and I know you will succeed at everything you do... no matter how many mistakes you make...
and if I have made any mistakes in translating your words and thoughts... just let me know in the comments... ;-)
Puss och kram.


  1. Suzanne!
    Thank you so much for this post but most of all thank you for being you. My intention was to give you a flabbergasting gift with sparkling things and magical steam but it all ended up in... a hug.
    I hope you can feel my thankfulness for being a part of your life and for having worked with you even without this gift..
    John S. Mbiti, a Kenyan philosopher, once said : "I am because we are and, since we are, therefore I am."

    1. a wise Kenyan philosopher!

      Well that made the tears come... Friday I was lucky to have the children and a meltdown to take care of... otherwise I would have had a little meltdown of my own!!
      Yep I felt the sparkling steamy flabbergastness of the hug...

      Until we next meet...