Friday, 31 August 2018

Förskolans Läroplan 2018 del 1 (The new Swedish preschool curriculum)

(English after the images)

Alla citat kommer ifrån den nya läroplanen
Förskolan ingår i skolväsendet och vilar på demokratins grund. Av skollagen (2010:800) framgår att utbildningen i förskolan syftar till att barn ska inhämta och utveckla kunskaper och värden. Den ska främja alla barns utveckling och lärande samt en livslång lust att lära. Utbildningen ska också förmedla och förankra respekt för de mänskliga rättigheterna och de grundläggande demokratiska värderingar som det svenska samhället vilar på
Den nya läroplan börja med att konstatera att det är en skolform, att det är demokratiskt och att det handla om att "inhämta och utveckla kunskaper och värden". Hela första stycket handla om inklusivitet - att alla har rätt att delta, blir respekterad och har lika värde. Det är först i den andra stycke om "förståelse och medmänsklighet" att det är prat om empati och omtanke, men som något som ska ingå i deras utbildning. Den tredje stycket fortsätta i liknande ande med att alla har rätt att uttrycka sina idé och åsikter och vikten att barnen får höra en mångsidigt berättelse om livet och lärande. Sedan fortsätta det med att alla förskolor runt om landet ska erbjuda en likvärdig utbildning (detta undra jag verkligen hur dom ska göra - för att jag uppleva att det finns stora skillnader även inom en stad).
Sedan blev det en tydlighet om att könstillhörighet ska inte påverka tillgång till utbildning, lek, upplevelser eller hur man är bemött (skulle vara trevlig att det var lika tydligt kring barn med olika "funktion nedsättningar" utifrån den förskolemiljö man nuvarande erbjuda - istället är det samma som vanligt att man ska anpassa efter behov - men inte tillräckligt mycket om hur man göra det som en grupp... dvs det är en individuell anpassning istället för en grupp anpassning som man ska göra kring könstillhörighet).

Det första som skrivs om "förskolans uppdrag" är
Utbildningen i förskolan ska lägga grunden för ett livslångt lärande. Den ska vara rolig, trygg och lärorik för alla barn. Utbildningen ska utgå från en helhetssyn på barn och barnens behov, där omsorg, utveckling och lärande bildar en helhet. I samarbete med hemmen ska förskolan främja barnens utveckling till aktiva, kreativa, kompetenta och ansvarskännande människor och samhällsmedlemmar
Precis som tidigare i år, jag reagera mot ordet "rolig" - och skrev om det i "Learning is fun"  där jag ifrågasätta att lärande ska vara roligt... vi är inte "edu-tainers" för att underhålla barn med lärande... men istället väcka en glädje hos varje barn för lärande. Om vi skapar en trygg förskola där basen är omsorg kommer barnen har energi för att utforska, leka, upptäcka och lära en massa saker - barn som är otrygga kommer inte kunna släppa behovet av att vara sedd, bekräftat och omtyckt (kanske älskad utifrån Jools Page beskriving av "professional love") och då finns det mindre utrymme för lärande och lek. För mig är det en skälvklarhet att omsorg är otrolig viktig för lärande.
Jag var på en konferens förra veckan där jag lyssnade på olika lärarutbildare från runt om i världen - alla pratade om behovet av omsorg (även i skolan) för att skapa respekt, möjlighet till reflektion osv... den enda med en agenda att separera "educare" var från Sverige och inom förskolan. Han blev inte tydlig om varför man ska ta bort "care" från "edu" men har sade det flera gånger.
Det påminde mig om den svenska mode för några år sedan att ta bort "nyckelperson" dvs en person som kom nära ett barn och deras familj för att alla barn ska vara allas. Det finns mycket forskning från hela världen som berätta att en nyckelperson är extrem viktig för yngre barn att lära sig att knyta an... för att sedan använda den anknytning för att kunna skapa positiv and stabil anknytningar med andra...
dvs det är OMSORG som är den lärande kraften för empati, respekt, vänskap, att kunna lyssna på andra, att kunna ge värde till andra. Under kommer ifrån UK's EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage)

Why Attachment Matters

What is attachment and why is it important for young children? Attachments are the emotional bonds that young children develop with parents and other carers such as their key person. Children with strong early attachments cry less when separated. They engage in more pretend play and sustain attention for longer. They are less aggressive and are popular with other children and with adults. Their sense of who they are is strong. Children need to be safe in the relationship they have with parents or carers. They are vulnerable but will develop resilience when their physical and psychological well-being is protected by an adult. Being emotionally attached to such an adult helps the child feel secure that the person they depend on is there for them.  When children feel safe they are more inclined to try things out and be more independent. They are confident to express their ideas and feelings and feel good about themselves. Attachment influences a child’s immediate all-round development and future relationships.
Finns det ett behov för länkar till forskning så kan du fråga efter det i kommentar området vid slutet av detta inlägg.
Om vi ska stödja barnen att bli kompetenta, kreative osv så måste vi börja med omsorg - att deras känslomässiga och fysiska behov är bemött för att kunna verkligen har stor påverkan på deras kognitiva utveckling (om man nu ska definiera kognitiv med lärande) .

I utbildningen ingår undervisning. Undervisning innebär att stimulera och utmana barnen med läroplanens mål som utgångspunkt och riktning, och syftar till utveckling och lärande hos barnen. Undervisningen ska utgå från ett innehåll som är planerat eller uppstår spontant eftersom barns utveckling och lärande sker hela tiden
Jag är glad att se att undervisning är inte alls som undervisning som finns på skolan... kanske dags att ändra skolan så att den likna denna beskrivning.  Läroplanen fortsätta med att undervisningen är förskollärarens ansvar - så jag verkligen hoppas att det finns tid för förskollärare att kunna observera barnen och deras behov och kunskap osv för att reflektera, analysera och planera undervisningstillfälle - och samtidigt få tid med alla som arbeta på förskolan så att alla kan vara en del av denna process...
problemet är att det finns ytterst lite tid för pedagogerna att reflektera och planera tillsammans på den djup att läroplanen egentligen kräver.
Förr igår pratade jag med några som arbeta med Anji Play (en förskola förhållningssätt som började in provinsen Anji i Kina) och där pedagogerna få varje fredag eftermiddag för att reflektera och planera tillsammans som arbetslag, samt träffa och diskutera med andra pedagoger från andra förskolor för att kunna kontinuerligt utveckla som pedagoger. Föräldrarna hämta sina barn vid lunch denna dag. Att hela samhället är inställd att man måste stödja pedagogerna för att kunna ge den bäste kvalitet till barnen. Hur ska vi här i Sverige kunna se till att pedagogerna få den tid som verkligen krävs för att kunna utföra denna läroplan? Hur ska pedagogerna tränas ordentligt i observation och reflektion? När jag besökt flera förskolor förra året med en gäng pedagoger från Palestina vill dom veta hur man observerade... ingen pedagog kunde säga mycket mer än observera, ta bilder skriva lite anteckningar... dom nämnde ingenting om strategier, vilken sorts information sökta man för att kunna skapa lärande tillfälle... något som jag hade jobbet med dom mycket i Palestina och nu vill dom se i verkligheten... verkligheten och teori på många håll i Svenska förskola verka inte vara ihop riktig ännu. HUR ska man utbilda, träna och stödja detta?

Utbildningen i förskolan ska planeras och genomföras på ett sådant sätt så att den främjar barnens utveckling, hälsa och välbefinnande. Förskolan ska erbjuda barnen en god miljö och en väl avvägd dagsrytm med både vila och aktiviteter som är anpassade efter deras behov och vistelsetid
Som fru till en sömnforskare tycker jag att alltför många förskolor  ge inte tillräckligt mycket utrymme eller värde till sömn och vila som man borde. Det är  en del av den pedagogiska dagen... utan adekvat sömn eller vila kan man inte lära sig saker ordentligt eller kommer ihåg saker på ett optimal sätt. Man kan läsa mer om det i Tips för sömn och vila i förskolan

Nu avsluta jag för idag... och kommer att fortsätta genom hela läroplanen. Än så länge har vi kommit fram till sid 4 av 16.



now for the English translation
All quotes come from the new curriculum
Preschool is part of the school system and rests on the basis of democracy. From the school law (2010: 800) it strives that education in preschool aims at children to acquire and develop knowledge and values. It will promote all children's development and learning as well as a lifelong desire to learn. The education should also convey and anchor respect for human rights and fundamental democratic values ​​that Swedish society is based on
The new curriculum starts with stating that it is a form of school, that it is democratic and that it is about "acquiring and developing knowledge and values". The whole first paragraph is about inclusivity - that everyone has the right to participate, be respected and have equal value. It is only in the second paragraph about "understanding and humanity" that there is talk of empathy and consideration, but as something to be a part of their education. The third paragraph continues in the same spirit that everyone is entitled to express their ideas and opinions and the importance that the children hear diverse stories about life and learning. Then continues with that all preschools across the country are required to offer an equivalent education ie all have the same quality (I really wonder how this will be done - because I experience great differences within ONE city too).
Then they make it clear that gender should not affect access to education, play, experiences or how to interact with the children (would be nice that it was equally clear about children with different "function impairments" based on the present-day-care environment - instead, it is the same as usual to customize as needed - but not enough about how to do it as a group ... ie it's an individual adaptation instead of a group of customization that is required for gender equality).

The first sentence about the "preschool's mission" is
Education in pre-school will lay the foundation for lifelong learning. It should be fun, safe and instructive for all children. The education will be based on an overall view of children and children's needs, where care, development and learning form a whole. In co-operation with homes, pre-school will promote children's development to active, creative, competent and responsible people and community members
Just like earlier this year, I react to the word "fun" - and wrote about it in "Learning is fun" where I question whether learning should be fun ... we are not "edu-tainers" to entertain children with learning. .. but instead we should bring a joy to every child for learning. If we create a safe preschool where the base is care, the children will have the energy to explore, play, discover and learn many things - children who are insecure will not be able to let go of being seen, confirmed and liked (maybe loved -  Jool's Page description of "professional love") and then there is less room for learning and play. To me it is a clear that care is incredibly important for learning.
I was at a conference last week where I listened to different teacher educators from around the world - everyone talked about the need for care (including in school) to create respect, opportunity for reflection etc ... the only one with an agenda to separate "educare" was from Sweden and in pre-school. He was not clear about why we should remove "care" from "edu" but he said it several times.
It reminded me of the Swedish fashion a few years ago to remove "key person", ie a person who develops a close relationship to a child and their family instead of all children belonging to all staff. There is a lot of research from all over the world that says a key person is extremely important for younger children to learn how to connect and form relationships ... and then use that extension to create positive and stable connections/relationships with others ...
ie, it is CARE which is the learning force of empathy, respect, friendship, being able to listen to others, being able to give value to others. Below comes from the UK EYFS

Why Attachment MattersWhat is attachment and why is it important for young children? Attachments are the emotional bonds that young children develop with parents and other carers such as their key person. Children with strong early attachments cry less when separated. They engage in more pretend play and sustain attention for longer. They are less aggressive and are popular with other children and with adults. Their sense of who they are is strong. Children need to be safe in the relationship they have with parents or carers. They are vulnerable but will develop resilience when their physical and psychological well-being is protected by an adult. Being emotionally attached to such an adult helps the child feel secure that the person they depend on is there for them.  When children feel safe they are more inclined to try things out and be more independent. They are confident to express their ideas and feelings and feel good about themselves. Attachment influences a child’s immediate all-round development and future relationships.
If there is a need for links to the aforementioned research then you can ask for it in the comments area at the end of this post.

If we are to support the children to become competent, creative, etc., we need to start with care - that their emotional and physical needs are met in order to really influence their cognitive development (if one is to define cognitive with learning).

Education includes teaching (instruction). Teaching (instruction) involves stimulating and challenging the children with the curriculum goals as a starting point and direction, and aims at the development and learning of the children. Teaching should be based on content that is planned or spontaneous, as children's development and learning takes place all the time
I'm glad to see that teaching (undervisning - a huge new part and focus of this new cirruculum in Sweden) is not at all like teaching at school  ie lessons and teacher down... maybe time to change school so that it resembles this description. The curriculum continues that teaching is the pre-school teacher's responsibility - so I really hope there is time for preschool teachers to be able to observe the children and their needs and knowledge, etc. to reflect, analyze and plan teaching opportunities - and also have time with everyone working at the preschool so that everybody can be part of this process...

The problem is that there is little time for the educators to reflect and plan together at the in-depth level that the curriculum really requires.
The other day, I talked to the folks working with Anji Play (a preschool approach that started in Anji, China) where teachers get every Friday afternoon to reflect and plan together as work-teams, as well as meet and discuss with other educators from other preschools to be able to continuously develop as educators. Parents pick up their children at lunch this day. The whole society is set to support educators in order to provide the best quality for the children. How can we here in Sweden ensure that educators get the time really needed to complete this curriculum? How should educators be properly trained in observation and reflection? When I visited several preschools last year with a bunch of educators from Palestine they want to know how to observe ... no educator could answer much more than observe, take pictures write a few notes ... they did not mention anything about strategies, what kind of information was sought in order to create a learning opportunity ... something that I had worked with them a lot in Palestine and now they want to see in reality ... reality and theory in many places in Swedish preschool do not seem to be integrated yet. How do we train and support this?

Education in preschool should be planned and implemented in such a way that it promotes children's development, health and well-being. Pre-school will provide the children with a good environment and a well-balanced daily rhythm with both rest and activities tailored to their needs and length of stay
As a wife of a sleep researcher, I think that too many preschools do not give enough room or value to sleep and rest as they should. It's part of the educational day ... without adequate sleep or rest, one can not learn things properly or remember things in an optimal way. You can read more about it in Tips for sleep and rest in preschools

Now I finish for today ... and will continue throughout the curriculum page for page. So far we have arrived at page 4 of 16.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Älvkalas

Jag håller på skriva några dokument för att kunna stödja en projekt kring älvor och magi - med en fokus på värdegrunden.

I den här dokument kan man hitta en introduktion för att komma igång.
Jag kommer att samla 6 års erfarenhet av just älvkalas projekterande och vad jag har lärt mig.

Älvkalas






Thursday, 23 August 2018

Taking the time to reflect

Taking the time to reflect... it should be one of the simplest things to do, and yet often it feels impossible... as where do we get that time from..?



I am at ATEE conference in Gävle at the moment... listening to lots of research attaining to teacher training which I am finding incredibly interesting, but also found that I need to take the time to reflect and process the ideas milling around my head due to all the meetings, presentations and keynote talks during these days... because last night I could not fall asleep as my head took the time then to try and process and reflect on everything.

Often educators are not given the time or sufficient time to reflect both personally and also together with their colleagues. Theory tells us that we need to reflect, to analyse the documentation we have been collecting etc - we know and understand its benefits, but reality often prevents that time from materialising... colleagues become sick or are away, or things happen that require all educators to be with the children rather than one being able to leave to do some planning, and reflecting let alone do that with a colleague.
Preschools are seldom designed time-wise to allow reflection. I mean here in Sweden preschool pedagogues have a max of 40 hour working week which they have to cover the 60 hours the preschool is open. There is always the puzzle of how to arrange planning time, reflection time etc... knowing full well that this will result in lowering the teacher ratio - so if the guideline say we should to be x number of pedagogues for every y number of children this will radically change if 1-3 pedagogues stop interacting with the children to be able to focus on reflecting with the documentation together with colleagues.
If a high quality preschool depends on the educator:child ration are we reducing the quality by the fact educators spend and hour or more child-free reflecting? At the same time are we reducing the quality of the early years setting if we are not providing adequate reflection time?
In my research while doing my masters about quality in preschools the three educators I interviewed all mentioned this problem, only one of them had less of an issue, but this educator worked at a setting that was open 45 hours a week... it was SO much easier for them to arrange child-free time without impacting the adult/child ratios...

During my time at the conference I have listened to various presentations and talks - most have raised the importance of relationships and all have talked about the importance of reflection - amongst other things...

One of the presentations was about reflecting on documentation and what I realised is that there is a huge need not only for time for reflection but also support.
How should we be reflecting in order to improve our practice?
what kind of documentation do we need, and how should we be analysing it?
Does all kinds of reflection lead to improvement, or are some forms better than others?
Are some educators reflecting on what the children do or on how the children learn - or both, what difference does this make.
How are these reflections being documented? Are educators returning to these reflection again to deepen their understanding? Does what they learn from these processes get put into practice... and how is this documented and analysed?
Are educators being given the training in how to document, analyse, reflect and put ideas into practice?
And how do you train teachers in this... is there one method that is better than another, or are there many perspectives and approaches?

Talking about teacher training, and also with the view that we are "life-long learners" I found the presentation by Marco Snoek really interesting - with the idea we are, as educators, student, novice, experienced and master teachers... and that there are many areas within teaching that we can be at this various levels... as you see in his model image below

This got Patricia and I thinking about how should we be  supporting teachers in the training and also continued developments to go from student to master teacher over their professional lifetime (if this is what they choose)

So the idea we came up with

  • STUDENT: for 3.5 years, like it is now in Sweden to be a preschool teacher, but this can also apply to other trainee teachers
  • NOVICE: a two year period working in a school/preschool as novice teacher, with mentorship
  • the novice teacher then returns to university/college to gain more training. This gives them time to reflect on the experiences of being a teacher, the interactions with children, parents, colleagues and the curriculum to have a better understanding of what they need to learn more about to become...
  • Fully qualified teacher: they return to their setting to put some of that new found theory into action. During the following years they become an..
  • EXPERIENCED teacher. After at least 10 years of experience as a teacher there is an opportunity to return to university/college to become a
  • MASTER teacher. The interaction of years of experience can be deepened with more and relevant theory and this can then be applied back in the classroom afterwards.
I feel that this approach would allow not only the teachers to re-invigorate their teaching approaches but also for the centres of teacher training to hone their skills of preparing future children. Teachers will be able to inform the teaching colleges of what was missing in their original training, and patterns can be seen if it is the same sort of knowledge that is missing and be able to address it. For instance now I find that many new teachers are unprepared for neurodiversity and how to interact and support neurodiverse learning environments.

Reflection. There is a massive lack of time set aside for real reflection, and the above approach to teacher training and continued teacher development books in set periods of reflection.

Other mentions of reflection in the ATEE conference these last few days include...
Vinayagum Chinapah said that we should not behave in a stereotype manner and that we need to honestly look at our education systems so that we can make real and relevant change... this requires us to reflect over what is a stereotype manner and why do we not honestly evaluate our education system?
I know over the years watching colleagues evaluate our academic year that there is a loathing to not have got it right... and there will be a focus on those children we have been successful with rather than the brutal honest truth. Life is messy and complicated and I doubt any school or class can get it right for every student all of the time - but we can strive towards that and learn more about how children learn and how we teach. But it means being honest.
As an autistic person I do not lack that brutal honesty and that can be irritating at times for those I work with who want to put on a good show for the sake of the parents and the local authorities... while I appreciate that we want to ensure we maintain the confidence of the parents that we are doing a good job, that their children are safe and learning, if we sugar coat the reality we are denying ourselves opportunities to evolve for our own sake and the sake of the children.
This is why I feel we need a greater focus on how do we reflect.
Arjen Wals said in his keynote that we not only need to create but also disrupt in order to create sustainability in schools/education. He also pointed out that disrupting can make people feel uncomfortable... at let's be honest most people actively avoid feeling uncomfortable.  He went on to say that education is normative if we are not engaging in the uncomfortable questions and that there is a need for a more reflexive society.
One participant in the conference came up to me and said "you are such a passionate person" and I could read the undertones... I was questioning, yes in a passionate way - as an autistic person I am still, always, trying to monitor how to gauge it - but yes I come across as passionate and I question and will not accept, because I want to understand, not because I want to prove someone else wrong.
Yes I am a disrupter, but only when I want to learn more, or I see social injustice.  But I have always been "other" I have not fitted into that norm of education and society, neither have my children... and I also see how others in that safe little norm space treat the "others" or just stand there and allow it to happen by compliance either actively or passively (and by passively I mean they have not taken the time to reflect on the norms and how exclusive they really are).
This morning I read an article in AEON that I was tagged via facebook (The autistic view of the world is not the neurotypical cliche) and it really resonated - people with autism are being represented by a stereotype... it is if to say all people from Sweden only ate meatballs, pickled herring and potatoes, only drive volvos and saabs and spend all their free time in the forest, probably naked (as was the general giggle of British people when I said I was moving/moved to Sweden. Sweden=naked). Of course Swedish people are as diverse in their interests, tastes and life-choices as everyone else in the world... we would not treat every Swede as if they were this stereotype, but for some reason it seems OK to treat autistic people in this way, also other minority "others".
So we really do need to reflect over the stereotypes, why are they there, how do they help us and how do they hinder and how do they harm?

Masahiro Saito also talked about the importance of reflection in his presentation - saying that it is important for the teacher to not teach down at the student, but to stand with the learners in order to reflect and learn with them... that in order to teach effectively it is important to understand the learners and to then adjust the teaching to their genuine needs. By moving away from teacher-centred education to learner-centred education more space for genuine learning is created.
In other words the teacher should not just be thinking about how to fill the students with knowledge, but reflecting on how can the students access this knowledge.
Michael Teutsch talked about understanding... and the fact that we often think others understand because we like them, rather than actually checking to see if they have understood. I think this happens in the classroom but also in the teacher training institutions... that words like observation and reflection are being used with the assumption that everyone knows what they mean and how to do this... yet when a group of Palestinian educators visited Sweden last summer to learn they constantly asked the teachers how do you observe, what kind of observations do you make and how do you use them to create lesson plans or plans for learning and play? None of the teachers they asked this to was able to answer them in a way the teachers felt satisfied... the Palestinians complained, they just kept saying "we observe the children play" but never what was it they were observing, or how... etc
For me this backs up what Masahiro Saito wants for the trainee teachers... that they are not receiving an teacher-based education where there is a risk for not fully understanding how much each student comprehends and whether they are actually able to apply the theory, but that it should be learner based so that there is an understanding of how the trainee teachers (learners in a classroom too) are interpreting and comprehending the theory. Only this way can we assure that educators are adequately equipped for their future profession.

Teutsch also said that education should be about everyone being able to see themselves and understand who they are and learn to be a part of society - the norm being so restrictive we prevent people from seeing themselves - instead we are forced to see the norm and to try and adapt to that.

I think there is an educational norm. A norm to how we view teaching. This teaching norm makes it really hard for children like my son who struggle to participate in that learning norm... as Masahiro Saito said... we always assume the norm that everyone wants to learn and that we are life-long learners... what happens if someone does not want to learn. (My son does not like the process of learning... at least in the way it is being presented... this does not mean he does not learn, he learns all the time, but he is not driven by the desire to learn... like I am for example. This, over the years has been hard for me to understand, yes I have accepted who he is, but not until I heard Masahiro Saito's words yesterday did it fully sink in that I am looking at learning forma normative standpoint. 
Its like saying all children can play. But then it depends on how you define play - and also if a certain play style results in a child being excluded or harming others...

Life is so much more complicated than the normative bubble that is fed to us... especially through the school system.

Hanneke Jones talked about the power of dialogue, philosophy for children - an approach I really appreciate and have used a great deal with children and adults over the last 5-6 years. Here the power of reflection is being shared with the children.. it is not simply the teachers being reflective, but the children being reflective together. Hanneke Jones researched strived to find out if this form of interaction could support children to be more creative thinkers. It was thoroughly interesting to watch the process of the research and the amount of educator reflection needed to reflect on what is creative thinking, how do we know that they are developing their creative thinking and what is it that enables their creative thinking. Hanneke had a whole day, as part of her research degree to reflect on this... how often are teachers afforded this - I was going to write luxury, but really it is a necessity.

Monique Leigraaf reflected on the power of knowledge... does the teacher sit with all the power... if knowledge is deemed as power - seeing the child as an empty vessel that needs to be filled (really made me connect to the Reggio Emilia Approach and the view of the competent child) or should we be sharing that power, like Masahiro Saito, come "down" to the sphere of the child/learner to discover what the children already know and to build from there... but also to allow the children to learn from each other. This was something the children in Gästrike Vatten's Board of Children made clear in our evaluation with them in May, that they realised that they could all learn from each other, and not just the adults, that they became active listeners not just having to listen to the teacher, and the oldest child was happily surprised that she could learn from others that were 4 years her junior.
The teacher down system does rely on the fact the older you are the better you are.
I think that age does allow us to gain more experience and more knowledge... but there is an equality in our capacity to learn (of course we do not all learn the same things, or in the same way or that all of us learn according to the learning norm - but there is an equality in our humanity). In other words... when I talk with my preschoolers or older children I go in with the agenda that I will learn from them and that I will share my experience and my knowledge when needed. It can be that I learn new facts... that they have been to places and done things or read things that I have not - it might be that I learn more about the children, as an individual, as a group, how they learn etc etc. I go to the group as teacher and learner... and encourage the children to also come as teacher and learner.

Monique Leigraaf referred to Ranciere several times during her presentation and his explanation that we are dumbing down children by always coming from an explanatory point of view... that we need to be allowing space for the children to reflect and work together to find out.

When listening to Hanneke Jones I struggled a little digesting her research because I was filled with my experience and knowledge of using philosophy with children... and really listening to someone's research condensed into 20 minutes does not give you much space to reflect and assimilate the density of the information being shared. Especially as I come from a focus of community where her focus was on creative thinking. During a dialogue session about themes we were noticing in the conference György Mésáros mentioned his deep appreciation of small scale research where details could be noticed which was countered by Dubravka Knezic who said there was also a need for a complete picture, ie research on a bigger and wider scale.  The group came to the conclusion that there was a need of wide scale research with small in-depth research to ensure a holistic understanding. Otherwise there is the risk of certain bubbles of knowledge which might not be representative.
On Monday evening I chatted with Eero Ropo about education in Finland and Sweden, as I had raised earlier in the day that Swedish preschools were not always this perfect educational approach that the rest of the world sees... he said that this was also true of Finnish schools... that the rest of the world was cherry picking the best elements and not seeing the complete picture. This is in no way to put down the Finnish or swedish educational system... but maybe we all need to reflect without rose-tinted glasses. Which brings me back to the point that Chinapah said in the first keynote talk... that we need to look honestly at what we are doing.

Arjen Wals said that education should be for people and the planet and not for the economy like it is now. That the economy should be there to serve us. He also said that there are many groups in society that create doubt so that people do not change their habits (think global climate, additives etc etc) - this got me wondering whether the same is being done in education... is doubt being created so that change does not happen. I mean why do teachers around the world stay in a profession they feel is not productive or the best for the children/students they work with. Why do we consent to the policies? Why do we comply?
This brings me to Anja Swennen's presentation on the history of teacher training colleges in The Netherlands during the Second World War and how they complied with the Nazi's to remove books with Jewish etc content and accept the nazification of the training programme. The reason given is that the teachers thought it would pass... it was just a phase... very few made a stand against it.

I keep reading about the need to revolutionise education, to change it etc and have done for many many years now... and I also hear a frustration of nothing happening... is this like what Chinapah shared - NATO - standing for No Action Talk Only.?
So how do we create a disrutpive capacity in ur schools in order to create sustainability... where sustainability is not just climate, economic but also social etc...

Should we be doing things better or doing better things?

Some things contradicted each other in the conference... for example while many were talking about the need for community, empathy, care - including Arjen Wals who said building trust is essential, that if people don't like each other they will not be able to take advantage of the diversity. We need to care. Empathy is key. Johan Liljestrand on the other hand said that there are risks that happen with caring and and that education and care should not be mixed. Personally I am a big believer in educare... the need for professional love that Jools Page has researched. If we are seeing care as risky and removing it then creating a community of learners becomes so much harder, as it is based on caring for each other, teacher and children alike.
of course there was not enough time to find out exactly what Liljestrand meant by "risks that happen with caring".

But as Hanneke Jones explained - she saw a correlation between disagreements and creative thinking. So maybe taking the time to reflect on these two opposing ideas of care - as something risky and something positive can lead to some profound thinking?

I have now written more than I first intended, but I have a lot of thoughts to try and sort out... and as you see I am far from finished reflecting on the last few days.

I hope this has given you food for thought about reflection and the importance of making time for it. And I hope that we can impact policy that enables real genuine reflection for teachers together with colleagues to reflect.

After the photos of quotes are a few links to posts that connect to this thinking



links
The story of otherism - about how the norm excludes...
The Story of a Hug - about the need for care, and about some problems..
Scaffolding Inquiry - exploring how this can be done
The Story of Communication part 3 - this post is about the need to reflect on our own bias and how it impacts us as teachers
The story of sustainability - rather relevant since this was a reflection based on a conference with the theme about sustainable schools and preschools

I look through my posts and see plenty that would be relevant to shre here... but will leave it at these.

In the coming week a Swedish translation will follow these links...

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The Story of Communication... part 3

This is just going to be a quick post... as I sit working on a small guideline to participate in a project with democracy, equality, diversity and inclusion being the cornerstones as part of my work as pedagogical consultant/guide for a preschool.

Communication is such a huge part of this...
How we communicate with our bodies, our tone and our words... how we allow our own prejudices communicate, often without our own awareness. This is why it is so important to discuss these with your colleagues...

You need to discuss what are the principles for an inclusive culture in your setting - what does inclusion mean, and how do you achieve this... who do you need to communicate and collaborate with to gain the tools you need to create this inclusive culture.

We need to embrace diversity, equality and integration/inclusion - seeing it as a rich source of learning for all the children rather than a problem.
How do we see what the children communicate as a source of learning rather than as a problem?

We need to critically reflect on our own personal attitudes and values and how they impact the children... this means not only looking at how you view the child, but also how you view the teacher... but also other values about language, ability, religion, sexuality etc etc - how do your opinions impact the children... as I do not believe that we can be objective, and I don't think we should be, but what we should strive for is an awareness of how our own opinions impact others... as communication is so much more than words... all attempts at saying the right thing and trying to be objective will not work if body language is communicating another story to the children...

For instance when my children were young I had other parents come to me and tell me that their children said that one of the teachers did not like my son... Despite the fact that this teacher always strived to be professional and say the right thing her body and tone were communicating so clearly something else that not only my son was picking it up but also the other children in the group. How aware are we of this kind of communication? This is why it is so important to personally reflect, and also reflect as a team about the "challenges" of  working with children. I mean sometimes the chemistry is just going to be wrong, and often we can ensure that other adults can do more of the interacting with that child until you have dealt with the chemistry and make the communication less toxic (for the child or yourself) - I have worked with children that have pushed my buttons (as all educators will do) and I have made the personal decision to always be honest and say to a colleague when I need a pause from a child in order to keep the communication positive - often it is due to patience running out, and batteries need to be recharged, but sometimes a child can just get under your skin in an irritating way, and you just need the time to reflect why, and also to talk with others so that you can refocus.
I am grateful that in the Swedish preschool system we are more than one teacher to a group, this means when I am having an issue with a child I can hand over responsibility to another adult for a while and seek help (through reflection, reading and looking for strategies, and talking with colleagues about how they interact and what strategies they use... and often see the child in a new light). I am honest with my colleagues, not just myself... and this then allows me the time to work out how to interact positively with the child. If we are always trying to kid ourselves that we get on with all of the children all of the time then we are not giving ourselves the time to evolve as a human and educator... it also means the children get to pick up on that story you are trying so hard not to communicate.
By being open with colleagues, we can learn about their struggles too... and learn from them and offer advice, that can help you in the future too.

We need to be active in testing out creative ways to be inclusive. To share ideas and test them out, evaluate them - sometimes just amongst colleagues, sometimes with the children... we need to play and test ideas not just talk about them. Theory into practice... otherwise it just is mouth-service...  it feels like you are getting things done, when there is no real impact for the children...

We need to be constantly discussing, and evaluating.

So, How do we learn to become comfortable with difference?
How does education impact the fundamental values of children?
How do you carry and communicate your culture? What is your culture?
How willing are you to listen to the cultures of others? And in what capacity?
How do you communicate between colleagues in front of the children? Is this a role-model for good social interactions or is it fraught? How does this impact the children? What can be done about it?
What is the diversity in your setting? Language, religion, race, culture, gender, age, ability, family structure etc etc... there is always diversity. How is this included and valued? Does everyone feel included? Do some get more space to talk, play, be noisy, participate... why? Why don't the others?


I think these are enough questions for this post to get you thinking about how you communicate based on your own personal fundamental values... how do yours relate to that of colleagues, the children and their families and the rest of society?


Thursday, 2 August 2018

The story of communication... part two

In the last few days since writing the first part exploring our adult role in communication I have seen an increasing number of posts about setting up the environment ready for the new academic year to begin (in the northern hemisphere that is... of course in the Southern hemisphere the school year is different, and it is winter right now!)

So I decided that this next post in the series should take a look at the classroom... the learning environment ... the third teacher..



as  Reggio Emilia inspired educator I reflect a great deal about my colleague, the third teacher, and over the years I have written quite a lot of blogposts on the topic, as well as sharing images from settings I have visited...

What I have always struggled with is that many educators focus on how the third teacher looks a little more than how it functions... imagine if that is how we educators were treated too. That how we looked, fixed our hair, the clothes we wear whether we work out over not... all of this had more importance than how we teach, communicate and interact with the children... it was more important than the knowledge and experience we have gained over the years... or more important than the relationships we create with the children, parents and colleagues...

I think we would consider people that looked at us in that way as superficial and missing the point of us as educators... not seeing or valuing what we really do.

Of course the early years does not get the value it should, but not to be valued by our own ECE peers would not be healthy for our teaching self-esteem.

So in this post I want to look at how the room communicates... with you as a teacher, with the children as learners, with the humans that spend time there...

Start with the question...
what is the intention of the room?
The intention of the room at the start of the year might be about making the children feel welcome, feel settled and feel comfortable to interact with others...

How do you with the resources that you have meet these needs?
How are you going to arrange the furniture to create space for the children to meet and talk with each other? Do you want them in just big groups or smaller groups? or able to change the size of their group throughout the day (which would mean a selection of space sizes from large to the small).

Do you want the children to feel independent and competent? How do you set up a room to do that?
If you have EVERYTHING out and visible at the beginning and the children do not like to tidy up or are not ready to cope with the amount of resources then you are setting the children up for failure and yourself for frustration and hard work picking up after them... Why not limit the resources in the beginning to see how the children manage those, allowing them to feel in control of the space by being able to play and tidy up after themselves without feeling overwhelmed? New things can be introduced bit by bit... and these introductions can allow you as an educator to enhance the play and learning you see the children engaged in and allow the classroom to meet those needs. It also allows you the time to explain some tools and how they can be safely used... rather than having everything out at the same time and a feeling of risk in the everyday is higher than what it maybe should be.

For instance I have worked in groups where scissors are a great creative tool and all the children knew how to hold, transport and use them... while in other groups the scissors have posed a problem, carried in a dangerous way, not being held properly and accidents happen (too frequently) or children use them inappropriately which switches the scissors from risk to dangerous...
Access to scissors is based on the children's ability to use them and their relationship with them... the room needs to communicate I trust you... and if you are placing materials in the room that require you to police the children then the room and you are saying you do not trust.
When I have had groups with children unable to happily and safely interact with scissors (regardless of age) then I put the scissors out of reach and in a space where they need to ask me to use them, I will bring them down and we can work together, communicating with the children how to hold them, how to carry them and how to use them so that they can get creative... with the intention that as soon as they are ready the scissors can be placed in a place where they can reach themselves.
Just as we do not let people drive cars without lessons and learning first and proving that they can drive safely, I think we need to use the same approach with tools in preschools... so they do have that competence and I avoid coming in saying no.

I want to create a room that says yes.

And more importantly that allows me to say yes rather than no.

Look around the room. Do you see anything that might make you say no to the children? Why does it have this no potential? Can you make changes so that the room clearly allows the children - permits their play - rather than requiring you to police and possibly restrict their play and learning?

Take the time to look from the child's height. It does look very different from their height. Does it look inviting or intimidating? If the latter what changes can be made?

Children have a very different sense of beauty than what adults have. Attempting to clone what others do is not always the best option. Find out what your  children need and like.  Will baskets, neutral colours and the like calm them or send them to sleep? Is that their sense of a learning environment? I am personally not an educator that likes a lot of visual clutter and lots of colours brightly challenging my eyes... but equally I don not like the opposite where there is no colour and devoid of all clutter. I like a learning space that says welcome - come play, come learn, come share your ideas with others... and also a space that celebrates this process, the children can see their value, the value of their ideas etc as this is communicated in the space too. We do not need fancy furniture and expensive materials to be able to do this. We get creative with what we have.
Not all learning spaces have the financial means to get exactly what they want from the catalogues - it is about recycling and upcycling... which is a very sustainable approach to education and also has its own beauty/aesthetic

When we look at images from other people's settings we need to always take this into consideration... we do not know what kind of budget they have, we seldom know how the space is used and what kind of children's needs and abilities they are meeting, we seldom take the time to ask about how the space communicates with the children... it is so often judged on how it looks.

This is part of the reason why Malaguzzi did not want people to take photos of the settings in Reggio Emilia... he did not want others to simply come and take photos to then replicate the space elsewhere... he wanted the educators to start a journey together with their third teacher... where they get to know each other and learn how to communicate with the children... to communicate a joy for learning. The downside is that there are many educators out there in the world saying you need to have this or that, or get rid of this or that for it to be truly "Reggio Emilia" inspired... and yet there are no images to say this is right or wrong, just word of mouth that seems to have been distorted over time - where no plastic, or natural baskets or loose parts or nature are the must do or the must have in order to be Reggio...
Start with the children.
Your relationship with the children.
How do you view childhood and what they can do, should do? How is this reflected in your learning space (indoors and outdoors). How do you communicate with children? How is this reflected in the space? What is the intention of your learning space? How does this impact the room?

What about sound, light, smell, touch - and why not taste... how do these all fit into your room? Do these elements hinder or enhance learning... what can be done to ensure that the room enhances learning rather than hinders, considering all the senses.

we also need to think about how the room communicates inclusion.
Does every child feel welcome?
Can every child feel they can identify with the room or elements of the room? ie does a child with a foreign language have access to her own language through books for example... even if you as an educator cannot read them, their very presence in the space says that her language is valued.
Does the learning space require that some children need extra help? Why do they need this support? Can the room be designed so that all children feel competent.

I have been seeing this image going round facebook the last few weeks, and it made me think of education... (in fact there are several versions that can be found if you google equality, equity and justice meme - so I included a few here)



What I feel we should be aiming for in our classrooms is the justice or liberation - the sad fact is the education is mostly set up for equality which means those that can thrive, those that struggle struggle more... there are schools and educators that strive to ensure that there is equity, that the children get what they need to be able to achieve... but really what we should be doing is designing our learning spaces so that all can be who they are and thrive and achieve and not have to conform to a school norm with standardised learning and tests that is so exclusive.
The really sad part is that reality seems to be going to some kind of extreme that there are those who have that keep getting more boosts and opportunities to achieve and thrive, while others get more taken away - not everyone is getting the chance to rise to the height of their own potential.

So designing your classroom and what it communicates is an incredible complex task. It is so much more than beauty.

How do you include the neurodiverse? Children of different colour, culture, language, religion etc? How do you include families that are not the norm... where the norm is seen as a mother father and children... not all families look like this... does your learning space make all children feel welcome, that all children can find their personal identity reflected?

is the room designed so that the children follow orders, learn obediently, or is there space for joy, laughter, care? What feeling/emotion does the room communicate... does it communicate an openness to learn and explore?

Then there is language?
Language to communicate?
Is your space set up to create a space that encourages children to communicate with each other, verbally and non-verbally?
Do you have words hanging over the room on shelves, walls and the floor, down from the ceilings? Why? Who are they for, especially for pre-readers? Does it overwhelm or enhance the children's desire to read? Or do they become invisible to the children... which in a way is devaluing the written word in the eyes of the child?
Are there other ways you can support language and communication? For instance Soledad at her preschool in Norsborg (see link below) has lists of words for the educators, they are tucked away, but visible enough to remind the educators to diversify their language - to not just rely on the same stock phrases. I like to hang question samples in the documentation room/office to remind educators that there are many many questions that can be asked... to the children, and ourselves as we make changes in the classroom and write up our observations...
Get the children involved in the documentation process so that they see that their words can be written down... this has far more power than vocabulary hanging from the ceiling or on shelves. The children's own words.
Are you communicating your expectations of the children by hanging these words... or the ideas and potential of the children by sharing their words? And this is not just an either or thing... both can work together... it is about mixing things up to create a space that works for you in your context.

Below are some links to posts that might be useful...

The story of communication part one
Open ended materials vi closed ended materials - this posts looks on the materials used and offered to children... do you avoid plastic, why? What is an open ended material? Are closed ended materials bad - always? Why?
The Political Nature of Reggio Emilia - this post is here to remind you that this is NOT a pedagogy about beautiful materials... it is a pedagogy of communication of rights, values, and respect.
The benefits of BIG play - a post to remind you that BIG play is important... how are you designing your learning space so that children can learn with their entire bodies?
Visit to Anden preschool in Haninge
The story of eating together - a post to reflect on WHY to you serve the food the way you do? Is there a more correct way? How does culture and context play a part in all of this?
Story of a word - looking at language
A visit to Aspen preschool in Norsborg - this is Soledad's preschool, as I mentioned above
Inspiration not cloning - please always be inspired by the posts that I share, the images I share... but always always always reflect and think why is this meaningful and relevant for you and your children?

Some images