Monday, 13 February 2017

Challenging ideas (My Reggio)

During the last few weeks I have been reflecting quite a lot on what the Reggio Emilia Approach means to me... since I have been interviewed for online conferences, podcasts and written some articles about the Reggio Emilia Approach (check this link to find out more about the free online conferences) ...

I have also had time to read blogposts, articles and books that have got me thinking and making pedagogical somersaults...
In the last few days Diane Kashin wrote a post Playfulness and Playlessness: The Politics and Pedagogy of Play on her forever inspiring blog Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research... her reflections were inspired by a post by Debi Keyte-Hartland Pedagogical Documentation in Challenging Times .
Not surprising really that educators who appreciate the Reggio approach should read each other's posts and be inspired to write... taking the thinking further, adding their own reflections... allowing an idea to expand, to be diverted, altered or challenged.
I think the "challenging" part is the hardest... not only to do the challenging but also to be on the receiving end of having your ideas challenged.
But I do believe that this challenging part is incredibly important... especially in the political climate we have today that both Debi and Diane talk about in their posts... the need to be humane... to be a positive part of the social fabric... not just following, but making informed choices... this can be done through making the humane visible as Debi writes and by giving freedom as Diane writes.

There is a phrase in Swedish which I feel is often thrown around but seldom truly exists - "högt i tak" which means high in the ceiling. This refers to that we are open to all ideas, that we accept the opinions of others, that we can talk frankly with each other, and that ALL are valued. Nearly every workplace I have worked at has used this phrase... seldom has it been active.
So why is it so hard to have a high ceiling? And why is it so important in "my" Reggio?

I feel it is important because if we are to evolve as educators we need to be open... to our own limits, to our failures, to the ideas of others, to the concept of having our ideas challenged... not to be proven wrong but as part of the process of expanding the idea, to be open to the idea that it is ok to challenge others and that they will not get offended... to learn how to do this respectfully... but at the same time I hear about the heated dialogues of Reggio Emilia and feel are we being too polite all the time with each other... is our politeness getting in the way of us evolving as educators, of being able to see pedagogy from a new perspective?

Time and time again there are dialogues in the facebook group Reggio Emilia Approach where people get uncomfortable with the challenging bit... which I think is a shame... there needs to challenging... of course with it being a group with well over 23,000 members from around the world there is a need for respect... not just being polite but a  respect that we view pedagogy from different perspectives... the Reggio Emilia Approach is not about lifting the pedagogical approach carried out in the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy and recreating it elsewhere... it is about redeveloping the approach to suit the needs of your own context... where we meet as educators is our view of the child as competent, ourselves as co-researchers/co-learners with the children, a pedagogy of equality and a pedagogy of listening. To have equality means valuing all of those 100 languages, valuing the potential of all... no matter gender, religion, ability, age etc etc; listening means understanding the children, understanding your own context... including your political context - understanding how stereotypes influence your teaching/interactions with the children in your care.
So how can we be respectful and not just polite... so that we are open to the challenges and can challenge in a meaningful way...

I think part of the problem is school... we have all been trained in a school system that has its focus on reading and writing... communication though is much more than reading and writing... it is MOSTLY listening...

communication - listening 40%, talking 35%, reading 16% and writing 9%

As you see in the above image (free Swedish lesson here) despite writing being only 9% of communication an awful lot of school time is spent on this area, and often from a far too young age, when there could still be more focus on the other skills - especially the listening and talking. There are next to no learning opportunities for children in listening... real genuine listening... not the kind of listening that lets you hear words, but the kind that allows you to understand the point of view of another... because if you know how real listening feels then you can also recognise it in others... then you feel more free to share your opinions and ideas with others...
The last four years I have worked philosophically with children... I also saw that I needed to support the children in their listening skills to make those philosophical dialogues more meaningful... so through play and art we explored listening and became better listeners... this blog shares that listening journey. But it was not only the children that got better at listening... so did I... I was learning with the children... I am still learning and one day I hope to be a great listener. I was told that i was a good listener when i was in Palestine... that I listened with an openness and with respect; and really I have my preschoolers to thank for helping me get to that place where other adults comment on it...

So I think it is hard for people/educators to have that high ceiling because we never get enough time to hone our listening skills, to practice being open... to let go of our own agendas so that we can understand the perspective of another. TIME. We need so much of it... time to practice, time to make mistakes, time to reflect, time to communicate with each other. So much time is filled with "must-haves" that often we are not give the chance to let go of our agenda, that we feel is important... that is important.
So how can we give each other more time, give ourselves more time so that we can build that ceiling high and use its full potential?

Free thinking... free speech... it also comes with the risk that we have our ideas criticised... but we need to be open enough, free enough, to explore these criticism as a way to expand your own thinking or solidify your own thinking... even, possibly, make a pedagogical somersault and change your thinking...
pedagogical somersault... was first used in connection with viewing the child as rich and full of potential to learn with the educator rather than being empty and  being needed to be filled by the teacher...

some quotes to reflect on about free speech, a high ceiling, the need to stand up for the right to express our opinions... and the hundred languages...

“Do not make the mistake of thinking that you have to agree with people and their beliefs to defend them from injustice.” 
― Bryant McGillVoice of Reason

“No idea is above scrutiny and no people are beneath dignity.” 
― Maajid NawazIslam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue

“The idea that you have to be protected from any kind of uncomfortable emotion is what I absolutely do not subscribe to.” 
― John Cleese

“Discourse and critical thinking are essential tools when it comes to securing progress in a democratic society. But in the end, unity and engaged participation are what make it happen.” 
― AberjhaniSplendid Literarium: A Treasury of Stories, Aphorisms, Poems, and Essays

“[T]he imagination, like certain wild animals, will not breed in captivity.” 
― George Orwell

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” 
― George Orwell

“I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.” 
― Oscar Wilde

“Because if you don't stand up for the stuff you don't like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you've already lost.” 
― Neil Gaiman

“Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.

― Winston S. Churchill

The Hundred Languages

No way. The hundred is there.
The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lella Gandini)
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

 (The FB group mentioned above "Reggio Emilia Approach" is a closed group for educators and parents interested in learning about REA and also sharing inspiration, a place to ask questions)

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Invitations to Play....

Today I saw a invitation to a twitterchat, which given time I will more than likely join in, where the chat is about "Invitations to play".

It got me thinking... what exactly does this mean?

Why are we inviting children to play? Isn't this something that they do? Isn't this how they explore the world and connect with each other?
Shouldn't our focus be on how do we create the TIME and SPACE for children to play?

OR, maybe (more than likely) the title is referring to how we educators can influence their play... how we can extend their play, how we can put a pedagogical lilt on their play. Really, it's not about making play available to children, but how we can manipulate play... that might not be a bad thing... but it is something we need to be aware of... that power we have over the children and their play.

OR, the title could be referring to how we as educators can learn from play... what invitations do we put out for the children so that we can learn more about what the children already know, how they interact with each other and the materials, about the children's problem solving skills, to learn about the children's various learning styles... there is much we can learn by observing children at play... that will enable us to know what materials we can put out that will invite the children to extend their play, to deepen their understanding of the world around them.

So I am looking forward to this evening... 20:00 GMT, 21:00 CET (me) which would make it
15:00 EST - for those of you across the pond that might be able to make it, despite being the middle of the afternoon. If not, why not check out the chat afterwards to see what was discussed and what ideas were presented as play invitations

#EYshare is the hashtag to use... you can find me on twitter @SuzanneAxelsson. My twitter account is only used for sharing learning, play and Early Years ideas.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Unique Child

I love social media, I love the fact that we can share ideas online no matter where we are in the world. I also find this position I am in... of being British but having lived in Sweden for just over half my life an interesting one, especially when it comes to my mother tongue. I realise more and more that I am not totally up to date with how words are evolving... and so sometimes they still have the same power as they had when I left UK in 1992... some words I have found have been diluted a great deal, or have altered slightly in their meaning. 

This must be the case for UNIQUE/UNIQUENESS. It is a phrase that is being used in the British educational system at the moment, and personally, I am not keen on it. 

I was participating in a twitterchat last night and the word popped up, and was used in a positive way, but it just grated on me. It feels such an isolating word to me where we are focussing on our differences... even though I understand the point is about illuminating the need to see the talents of children that extend beyond the academic. 

My discomfort has lead me to find out more about the word "unique" and why I feel this way. I of course turned to the dictionary... to see how the word is described... in fact several different dictionaries, just to make sure... here are just a few...

"The quality of being the only one of its kind" (Oxford)

"The quality of being remarkable, special or unusual" (Oxford) 

"Being without a like or an equal" (Merriam-Webster) 

These descriptions have, for me, confirmed why I feel uncomfortable with using "Unique Child" in an educational system. The descriptions do seem to describe something that is "one of a kind"... and learning for me is something that is collaborative, it is interaction. 

For me, we have more in common with each other than we do not... no matter how different we are, what our talents are, what our context is. Our differences allow us to explore the world from new perspectives... but our similarities allow us to do that together. 

Wikipedia describes uniqueness as "a state or condition wherein someone or something is unlike anything else in comparison. When used in relation to humans, it is often in relation to a person's personality, or some specific characteristic of it, signalling that it is unlike the personality traits that are prevalent in that individuals culture..." 

This is not how I would want children to be described... children are very much a part of our culture - they are creating it together with us. 

My big objection is the description that unique means "without equal"... I mean what are we doing...? are we not trying to create a world where there is equality? where we are all valued for who we are? a world where we are not discriminated against..? religion, race, gender etc etc etc etc etc... so many things where we are categorised and put on some kind of value scale. 

Maybe by being unique we cannot be put on this scale, we cannot be compared? But I still feel that we are never actually unique, because we have more in common with each other than not... we have sharedness. 

If unique is oneness, is the opposite diverse/myriad? But if we are seeing unique as something different and special... then the opposite would be ordinary or standard, which is not something I think we are either. Standard testing is obviously not something I think is effective... the one size fits all approach to learning... well, to be honest, its not really an approach to learning... it's an approach to assessing learning, that has then become the focus of how to teach in an adult down world. 

And yet the word standard is also complex - it has not been serving children's education well... but in society it has served us well... standard measurements, a certain standard of behaviour helps society to interact with each other peacefully... the problem is that when it comes to people there just needs to be more flexibility and if we start saying following the standard is right and not following is wrong then we start excluding people and thinking less of them... no matter how "unique" they/we are. 

Why are we always focussing on the differences? - why are we not examining the standard, the ordinary and how we can broaden the meaning of this, to make it more inclusive so that we can all be individuals that make up a whole? Isn't that we want? To belong? To be a part of something? To be valued? 

All of the dictionaries that I checked had a little "warning" that said many authors of usage guides, editors etc feel strongly that such "absolute" words such as "complete", "equal", "perfect" and especially "unique" cannot be compared because of their "meaning" - these are words that denote an absolute condition - so we cannot have less unique or more unique or very unique etc. The earliest meanings of unique (17th century) were "single, sole" and "having no equal", which developed to "not typical, unusual" during the 19th century. 

So why has such an absolute word been chosen to describe a child/ren? And how does this affect how we teach? Does it make us think of teaching and learning as one of a kind... that each class, each child learns totally in their own way... I think this put an enormous amount of pressure on teachers to see each unique child... to be constantly focussing on the differences. 

The last four-five years, I have been working with the whole idea of "mwe" the individual child as part of the group... that together we learn more, deeper, richer than what we do on our own. That our similarities being us together and allow us to understand our differences. I would really like for us to be equals... not in the sense that we are all the same, but that we are valued equally, differences and all. 

When I did philosophy sessions with children it was about weaving the children's individual ideas together to create a wonderful fabric of learning, something that was meaningful to them/us at that time, something that was constantly evolving. 

Why do I feel strongly about learning together rather than "unique" learning where the focus is on each child can be explained in these series of quotes. 

"As a result, there is a move away from considering one's own viewpoint toward considering multiple perspectives of the collective, resulting in a shift from individual to shared meaning. This position often frees teachers from a focus on producing correct answers. If there is more than one way to view a challenge, then perhaps there is more than one correct response to that challenge."  Moran, p.413 The Hundred Languages of Children (1998) 

"Among the goals of our approach is to reinforce each child's sense of identity through a recognition that comes from peers and adults, so much so that each one would feel enough sense of belonging and self-confidence to participate in the activities of the school.... As a result, children discover how communication enhances the autonomy of the individual and the peer group" Malaguzzi, p. 68-9 The Hundred Languages of Children (1998) 

"The more we distance ourselves from quick and temporary solutions, from responding to individual differences in a hurried way, the wider will be the range of hypotheses open to us. The more we resist the temptation to classify children, the more capable we become to change our plans and make available different activities. This does not eliminate the responsibility or usefulness of noting differences among children. let us take them into account, let us keep an eye on them. But let us always excercise caution and learn to observe and evaluate better without assigning levels and grades."  Malaguzzi, p.81.2

"Recognizing the universality of children's potential..." Malaguzzi p.81 

I could go on... open other books and find the value of collaborative learning, of shared learning, the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky), being part of a community of learners etc.. But I think you are getting the idea... for me the focus should be on the us... the we... without forgetting the me... because I truly believe that the me develops through the we

Below is a quote from the British EYFS webbpage about the unique child... there is a link at the end of the quote of you want to check out the page and see more links about the unique child. How all this thinking got started...

"Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured
Babies and young children mature in every area of development at their own pace and in their own individual ways. Inclusion means that individuals and communities are valued and no child or family is discriminated against. Young children are vulnerable but they are kept safe and develop resilience when their wellbeing is protected by adults. Health and well-being is an integral part of children’s emotional, mental social, environmental and spiritual health." EYFS A Unique Child 

What I see is the continuous use of the word "individual" in the text... I find this word much easier to digest than unique... its not so one of a kind, not so absolute... it recognises our differences without ignoring our similarities. Below I have copied and pasted in the synonym discussions from Merriam-Webster dictionary for the words UNIQUE and INDIVIDUAL. No matter how many times I read them... I prefer to use the word individual over unique every time when it comes to children... any human, really. 

  • Synonym Discussion of unique Merriam-Webster dictionary

    strangesingularuniquepeculiareccentricerraticoddquaintoutlandish mean departing from what is ordinary, usual, or to be expected. strange stresses unfamiliarity and may apply to the foreign, the unnatural, the unaccountable <a journey filled with strange sights>singular suggests individuality or puzzling strangeness <a singular feeling of impending disaster>unique implies singularity and the fact of being without a known parallel <a career unique in the annals of science>peculiar implies a marked distinctiveness <the peculiar status of America's first lady>.eccentric suggests a wide divergence from the usual or normal especially in behavior <theeccentric eating habits of preschoolers>erratic stresses a capricious and unpredictable wandering or deviating <a friend's suddenly erratic behavior>odd applies to a departure from the regular or expected <an odd sense of humor>quaint suggests an old-fashioned but pleasant oddness <a quaint fishing village>outlandish applies to what is uncouth, bizarre, or barbaric <outlandish fashions of the time>.

Synonym Discussion of individual

specialespecialspecificparticularindividual mean of or relating to one thing or class. specialstresses having a quality, character, identity, or use of its own <special ingredients>especial may add implications of preeminence or preference <a matter of especial importance>specificimplies a quality or character distinguishing a kind or a species <children with specific nutritional needs>particular stresses the distinctness of something as an individual <a ballet step of particular difficulty>individual implies unequivocal reference to one of a class or group<valued each individual opinion>.

characteristicindividualpeculiardistinctive mean indicating a special quality or identity.characteristic applies to something that distinguishes or identifies a person or thing or class<responded with her characteristic wit>individual stresses qualities that distinguish one from all other members of the same kind or class <a highly individual writing style>peculiar applies to qualities possessed only by a particular individual or class or kind and stresses rarity or uniqueness <an eccentricity that is peculiar to the British>distinctive indicates qualities distinguishing and uncommon and often superior or praiseworthy <a distinctive aura of grace and elegance>.

So what do you think, based on the above descriptions? Would you like to be teaching unique children or individual children? 

For me, it is about being a part of a whole, not deviating from it. Instead of making children "unique" maybe we should be focussing energy on creating an inclusive environment where all individuals can feel valued not just for their similarities but also for their differences... by broadening educational/learning/play experiences we allow all children to participate together, so that they can learn from each other - so that differences are seen as a benefit, rather than something that deviates from the norm... That instead of unique children that learn in their unique ways and probably not interacting with each other... meaning that our differences never get to be understood and/or appreciated. We are allowing society to feed the standard norms by saying "sure children are unique... we meet them where they are" rather than bringing them into the zone of proximal development so that we can all become better people. 

Sure I have taken this whole "unique" thing to an extreme... I know. I wanted to pull it apart, to be critical, to explore and work out what I feel about it. It has made me feel that real change within the education system is hard because the same crap keeps getting masked with new words... the whole system needs changing, not how we classify children.. being unique won't make the learning better if we are not overhauling the concept of teaching to responding to how children learn. 

we should learn to understand the individual needs... to know which gifts to bring to the children for their learning. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Loud nights... (Palestine 15)

I have just two more nights left here in Jenin before my return to Stockholm, Sweden. For the second time in my just over 2 week stay I slept through the 5am prayers (that are pretty loud... and very beautiful).

There are nights when there is more than just the prayers that disturb... there is the sound of gunfire and sound bombs... and sometimes angry shouting. There is not the triple glazing I am used to at home in Sweden either... so everything sounds loud. Often you can hear the cries of young children that have been woken by the sounds.

This is the reality of the city I am staying in right now.

Being married to a sleep researcher (now professor... just had to have a little proud moment sharing that) means I reflect a lot on sleep and how that affects our ability to function.

Disturbed sleep will mean that there is not enough rest and recuperation. That the sleep will not be as efficient at helping the children (and adults) to store short term memories into long term memories... this will affect learning. It makes it harder to learn. Sleep is an essential component of learning.

The reality is as it is. One can only strive and hope that this reality will change. But change is also harder when you are sleep deprived. Emotions become bigger when you are tired... happy can feel euphoric, sad can feel overwhelming, anger  and frustration can be difficult to control... there is plenty of research out there sharing this (check my previous posts about sleep).

Nap/rest time is always a part of the day I will not skip with young children... and by that I mean children up until at least six.. probably older for some children.
Having a good night's sleep is important for everyone... regular bed times really helps children develop a good sleep hygiene that they can continue as adults. Getting into a good routine of sleep is a great way to support your children in their learning.

So I see the noisy nights as something extra the education system here in Jenin needs to take into consideration... that maybe children are more tired on some days after a noisy night, that maybe if there are many noisy nights in a row that there will be a tired accumulation that will make the learning slower than usual... and that a teacher understanding this can maybe compensate and allow the children to learn at a pace that will work... maybe longer breaks to be able to recuperate... maybe more hands on learning so that the whole body is learning... sitting still might make it harder to keep awake... so fidgeting is used to keep the body awake... and often this is not seen as "good behaviour".

Then of course there is the psychological affects of living in a place with guns, with occupation, with death and imprisonment of parents... but for this post I will not go into that...

a view over Jenin... the square building just to the left of the green is a school

the entrance to the school... this was once the main entrance to the school... not anymore as you can see. Rubbish is somewhat of an epidemic here. it is also a reality.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Play... (Palestine 14)

Today I went on another excursion with The Freedom Theatre preschool... up into the outskirts of Jenin, on a mountainside with the most wonderful views.
The destination is a home under construction - so there are rocks, sand, gravel and construction rubble everywhere... basically a paradise for creative play. It doesn't look beautiful... though the views do... but it is rich in possibilities.
The children had no problems finding things to do.

Fire was, again, a central part of the morning.
The children gathered stones to make the fireplace, discussed where the fire should be made, built the fireplace so the saucepan would have support over the heat, collected wood and sticks for the fire and helped fuel the fire until it got going. There was no adult watching the fire like a hawk to keep the children "safe", but watched the fire to ensure that it heated the sweetcorn and so that the children KNEW how to respect and maintain a fire. There is always the benefit of having a small group... the learning is real, hands on and meaningful. There is also a natural trust between the children and the educator which enables the fire to be there without it being a danger... but all are aware of the risk that it is too hot too touch. The children are aged 3-5. There were 5 children. I took the role of observer... but did interact with the children too.

Below is a visual story of the trip... BUT only the part by the building... we also walked onto the mountainside to explore the rocks and small pools of water... but I will save those images for another day...

interesting to see this play... I had seen the exact same play need at the previous excursion, that time squashing olives.

first attempt at a fireplace... a long line of breeze-blocks... great for building muscles!

building the fireplace... learning that it needs to be high enough to build a fire under the pan

the sweetcorn warming up for snack... as the children explore and play

making mud balls... there are layers of different types of sands making these balls... I have a series of photos documenting the evolving mud balls.

balancing on rocks and counting... the last rock was quite wobbly

this was fixed by the rock being replaced with a flatter rock, the decision to do this was made by one of the children.
fancy toys are not needed... children are creative and play with what is available... plastic cups become buckets to make castles. There were two types of sand... they soon learned which one was better at making castles.

then it was time ti decorate the castles

sometimes relocating was needed to ensure the peace and quiet to finish construction without a younger child's need to play demolition.

also learning that the "good" sand did not work as well when it was filled with small pebbles.

but it was worth trying again...

our play-space today... and view.
The children did not want to leave. They had a great deal of fun here... and it was clear that there was much learning happening, motor skills developing, social skills being tested and cognitive skills being expanded. All happening in PLAY.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Fireworks... (Palestine 13)

That magical moment when thinking/creativity clicks into gear and ideas explode like fireworks.

That is what happened on the course today.

The participants shared their documentation of Saturday's session (where they played with loose parts, and told to take photographs of the learning that happened to create a documentation/publication that could explain to parents how learning happens through play. it would have been a documentation of children's play, but sadly I have timed my visit to when the schools have their winter holiday... great for being able to meet up with the participants more, not so great to put their practice into direct action.

Once they had presented we brainstormed together...
what learning was visible in the documentation
how could we extend, continue, support the children's continued learning through play...

At first this part proved slow and lacked ideas...
So I put a big piece of paper on the floor in the middle of the room, with the rocks (as this was the topic of the first presentation) and shared some ideas for continued play and the learning that could happen. It was amazing... a little bit of inspiration and the fireworks were ignited.
They were coming up with ideas, all sort of possibilities... and sharing the learning potential of these ideas...

this was done then for all the presentations...

The presentations were done as a powerpoint, or as a film, or as a series of photos with a written text. Most had worked in groups... and we talked about the value of shared learning... of working together so that shared reflections deepen.

They asked me about why i was writing down everything they were saying... I told them that it helped me to connect their ideas... to remember what was being said, so that next time I come I would be able to see how their ideas have expanded, changed or become deeper. more profound, or not changed... to see their learning... and that this is how I see the children's learning... how they interact with each other... how I see their language development, their idea development, their knowledge bank growing, and that it allowed me to be able to share with parents how their children learned and how they were developing, and what we could do to continue their development.

Today felt powerful. To see all this creativity flowing.

Once I am home in Stockholm, I will write more about the activities and our reflections... right now this is all I can manage!!

I do want to put a book together with ideas for play and learning... something simple to provoke thought and that is directly related to this course.

I am also going to put together some form of research to see if this 15 month course will have any impact on the children. So the idea is during February some observations will be made of the participants classes/groups and a few control schools/preschools... and then after the course the same observations made at the same schools/preschools... to see if the year long course... including a visit to Sweden and visit preschools in Stockholm... makes a difference in how the children learn/react to their learning/teaching.
I am grateful for The Freedom theatre who will ensure this happens, and also the support of Jenin Ministry if Education who will allow access to schools/preschools in order to learn more about effective teacher training.

If the course is not effective, the adjustments will need to be made... I DO feel confident that it will have an impact though.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Parents, schools and dreams... (Palestine 12)

This morning I held a presentation for parents...

For education to evolve, no matter where you are in the world, parents need to be involved.
This is so the case here in Jenin.
The participants on the course have told me how it is not easy to implement a play approach to learning because parental expectation of education requires them to show completed worksheets and homework... even for the young children... and school teachers are expecting kindergarten children to be learning to read and write before they start school.

My focus with the parents was about being physically and emotionally ready to read and write... to build up motor strength in arms, and hands and the whole body to enable the child to sit down and focus and write, and how through play this can be done. About the need to self regulate, the need to be able to truly listen... to understand and not just hear... so that learning in school can happen... if a child is still learning how to self regulate in school then there will be less energy for learning "lessons" is a child does not have the body strength to sit, most energy will be wasted on trying to sit rather than on the "lessons". AND that children before the age of 8 do not learn in the same way as we do when we are older...

This is something I will be going into more later with the participants too... as this coming week we will be talking about brain research, and various development areas... as well as learning more about observing and documenting learning through play.

After this presentation I visited a women's centre in the middle of the refugee camp... where i could see some women being trained in making jewellery - a way for them to earn money... and also children being taken care of... a sort of out of school care... the blocks were taken out (since it is one of the course participants that works here) and we played together with the children... we built and talked and explored different ways of building... it became clear how the children inspired each other in their constructions and how children tried and tried again to make things work, trying different approaches until they succeeded. The participant and I talked about what we had seen, the learning we had observed as we walked back to The Freedom Theatre.

After lunch I went to see the teacher training centre and the kindergarten that will open there next month... large grand building on the outskirt of Jenin. It appears to be somewhat like a lab school.. with observation rooms for the trainee teachers to watch and observe children learning.

This is a very exciting move for Jenin to have its own training centre... until now there has not been one... hence the desire for The Freedom Theatre to start such a training.

I also met here another member of the ministry of education, the man who is responsible for the schools, including special needs children. So we talked about this to some extent too... how children with special needs can be included in the education system.

It truly feels wonderful to start this collaboration with Jenin's Ministry of Education and to exchange ideas about learning, and how The Freedom Theatre has started something special in Jenin that is so relevant to the direction the ministry of education is taking - learning through play.

Collaboration. Communication. Creativity. Critical thinking.
Four very important "C's" for education around the world.

playing with the children (face free image, not the best construction image)

the newly built teacher training facility and kindergarten.
Today I have not included the photos I would have liked to... as I don't have the time to process them... I like to keep faces out of images I share out of respect for the children's integrity. Images of my own children's faces I share... I have talked about this with my children... we talk about the consequences of sharing images, what kind of images I share and why. Being older, they have a better understanding of the consequences (my own children at 16, 16 and my 12 yr old will be turning 13 in April - yes I have twins!).