Monday, 12 March 2018

Learning to be free

Today was my first session with the the group of educators that are on the introduction course... so we spent essential time getting to know each other... I shared my history, my experiences and my education with them... and they did likewise...

part of teaching is understanding the learners... if I want to be a good educator for this group of women then I need to know who they are, what they are interested in so that I can create learning experiences that are meaningful.
This should be the same for all educators... whether we are working with adults or children... developing real relationships allows us to better understand how we learn and how we can create environments suited to this learning.

By listening it became clear that these women are passionate about what they are doing. They are eager and open to learn. And they are striving to offer children the very best they can. There was talk of freedom, of resistance ... not the kind of resistance that means fighting... but the resistance to be formed by someone else's story of them.

In a way the dialogue reminded me of why the preschools Reggio Emilia in northern Italy first started at the end of the second world war... parents and educators striving to ensure that their children would not follow blindly another fascist leader... but to have the ability to think for themselves, to make informed decisions and to act with humanity... to value others, to respect others and to participate in making the world a better place for all and not just a few...
Here are educators and children living in an occupied territory... they desire freedom, respect and value and peace... to be able to live without fear, without trauma and to be open, creative and participate with equality. it is powerful.

So we have decided that this course shall proceed to meet those needs... to provide learning situations that will give children the strength to feel brave, to feel valued, to feel respect, to feel loved... so that they know how to protect others, value others, respect others and care for others...
This will give them the emotional space to feel safe, to find joy, to play and to learn.

As we discussed what made a good teacher, based on their memories from their childhood of the good moments from school it was clear that we need to make each child visible... to see them, to validate them, to care about them, to listen to them and to create a space that is safe... not only physically safe but emotionally safe too.
We discussed how important it is that the whole community gets involved... it is not enough that the educators do this, the parents should not put pressure on children to learn in a certain way, but should support children to learn.

We then did some sorting exercises... this hand-on activity had several points...
  1.  the educators needed to collaborate, 
  2. two the educators were sorting things, as we had been sorting our thoughts
  3. there are many ways to sort the same things as there are many perspectives
  4. an opportunity to expand out thinking about the materials, what materials can be used, how we use them
  5. an opportunity to see learning in a different way
  6. an opportunity to reflect on what aspects of collaboration are easy and are not
  7. a way for me to observe the hierarchy of the group
  8. a way for me to observe how they first tackle the task and then respond to instruction
The first two times they got to sort without instruction... well I gave them the pots and a box of loose parts and told them to sort... they did this individually, sorting themselves, making their own individual collections. This is as I thought they would... each working well side by side

Then I asked them to sort together, but still I did not tell them how to sort the things... and this took me by surprise as they sorted by imagination... they created a work of art and sorted the loose parts into sky, sun, stars, water, ground, tree... I love to learn a whole new way of sorting.
The I told them to sort by size... biggest at one end, smallest at the other.... which they said was easy because the instruction was so well given - so I gave them another "well given" instruction - to sort by beauty... the most beautiful at one end and the ugliest at the other - this was not as easy and they needed to dialogue with each other a lot to find compromises... thus learning that clear instructions are not always about what makes it easy...
The they sorted on a time limit... and felt the stress of that...

To end the session we watched a film about button play... images of young children playing with buttons in different ways... from sorting, to creating art, to stacking, to telling stories to making stop motion films... etc

I am looking forward to sharing more and learning more with this group of educators.

sorted by their individual choices

sorted by collaboration... which turned out to be by imagination

sorted by beauty... most beautiful closest to the camera... they could not decide so chose to have two as the most beautiful as a compromise.

time for much dialogue... a way to support language building with children, participation, sorting skills, negotiation skills... the teacher can observe how the children interact with each other... does one child dominate not allowing others to make decisions... why? Is there a child not participating... why? Are the children able to compromise... why/why not... what can you do as a teacher to help them be better at making compromises or making decisions together as a group? Do the whole group agree? If not, why do they not agree? Did all children feel they could participate? Why? Why not? Finding out the why will help making other lessons and play work better, finding out the why not, might help with individual needs as well as group needs.
Do some children prefer to talk about this on their own because they feel shy? Maybe do the same activity with fewer children so they can feel more safe before trying to do it in a large group.
Do some children need more language support to be able to participate?
Fine motor skills are being given plenty of chance to be exercised here.
and there is so much more that could be discussed that a whole blog post on its own could be written... so I will end there.

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