Sunday 4 September 2016

The Rhythm of Learning

I have been thinking over the last week or so about how we use philosophy in our work with preschoolers...  the philosophy that we are doing NEEDS to be meaningful, needs to be a part of what we are doing and not a stand alone thing... a space/time for the children to learn to think deeper, reflect as a community, learn to ask each other questions, and challenge in a respectful way... not to learn how to have a philosophical dialogue...

Over the years working at Filosofiska I have been testing out different ways of being philosophical with the children... not learning about Plato, Socrates etc... but more of a sustained shared thinking. There is a structure to support the dialogue, it's a framework to support the children to learn to listen to each other, also to challenge each other's thinking in a respectful way, and to become more precise in explaining your own theories and ideas to others...

the fact that I am Malaguzzi inspired means that I want to explore being philosophical with the children in many different ways... through all our learning and expressive languages. Its also needs to be done with joy and should be a meaningful part of our experience together at preschool.

For some reason there can be an apprehension about "doing" philosophy with children... and maybe it is that word "doing"... the idea that it can be done right or done wrong... and there are methods out there that are VERY specific in how you should be doing philosophy with children... eg Socratic Dialogue method and P4C (Philosophy for Children) - and even within these two methods there seem to be different schools of thought... I have done quite a few courses over the years with various amazing educators, as well as meeting others to talk about philosophy with children... I have seen that there can be quite an enormous span between how one person has interpreted Matthew Lipman and how another person has interpreted it.. 

For me, as a pedagogue inspired by Malaguzzi, I like to take the bits that suit me, the children and my context and mash them together with my own thoughts and theories to create something unique and appropriate to my preschoolers... this means that it is an ever evolving process... as I learn more, not only from research and methods, but also from the children, with the children and about myself....

But that problem about not doing it right... how to get over it?
Well the more that I have reflected over it the more I realise it is about letting go... about daring to test, daring to be wrong and learning from mistakes... it's not about learning through theory (even though that is important) as theory can only take you so far... you have to learn by doing... through practice and reflection and tweaking and more practice.

Its all about daring to communicate with the children, about being ONE with them, about learning to really listen, to reflect on how you ask questions, on your own tone of voice, on your choice of words, on how invested you are in the subject... the willingness to learn more about yourself... and not just do things for the children...
I think when you work WITH children there is always a sense of abandon... you have to accept a different rhythm and learn to dance and sing and express yourself to that... and there are many rhythms to learn... the individual ones and the group one, the project one and the collegial one... and I feel there are too many that are always marching to their own rhythm and not prepared to move to another... if you know what I mean... there are plenty of educators .. that will feel the rhythm and can move to it... its just within most preschools I have ever worked (and schools) there has been a bigger percentage of adults that are not prepared to truly let go..
This does not mean that I am not aware of the power that I hold as an adult in the group... being aware of it helps me to make sure I do not abuse it. Its is about balance... about listening to the many rhythms, being aware of my own rhythm and then creating a musical score... an album... where all these rhythms can feature.

I do not strive to be a friend to my preschoolers (or students when I worked in school) but to be their educator... and to be good at that... to be what they need me to be to be able to learn... yes supportive, but not as a friend, as an educator... I need to be able to direct the music to create a kind of harmony... I need to be able to listen to the children, to the setting, to the learning and ensure that all voices, all rhythms are being heard... not just by me, but by each other too, and also by the parents and society.

I have been reflecting on Play for Peace all year. I feel that using philosophy with children as a natural part of their play and learning gives them the tools to truly listen to each other which makes their play deeper and more meaningful... and also gives the ability to resolve their differences in respectful ways...
Of course children are children/people and things get heated sometimes... but the philosophy with children sessions also enable me as the educator to be better at listening to what is really going on, and to be able to intervene with questions and support, as a facilitator that allows the children to find the answers, rather than coming in as the "all-knowing adult".

I look forward to keep on evolving as an educator.

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