Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Two days of philosophy

So after two days of participating in a philosophy with children conference and philosophy workshops I sit here thinking about what is it that I have come away with...

Of course these are my first initial reflections.. but the biggest word for me was

pre-philosophy

I have realised that everything that we have been doing has not been "real" philosophy, even though it has been real for the children...  that MY work is to provide the children the tools to philosophise together. That my focus on listening skills - not just in the philosophy sessions but also the art sessions we have done to support the children's listening skills and understanding of limits have been a HUGE part of providing experiences for the children to gain hands-on practical skills that will allow them to partake in philosophical dialogues...

My job is also helping the children to start thinking as "we" instead of "me"... to become a community of learners, a community of enquiry where ideas are shared, opinions made and changed and values explored.

The children need to learn a self awareness, about how they learn best, as well as learning and respecting how others learn best.

The children need to learn how to stop and think before acting... this can be done through dialogue, but is also learned through daily interaction with the children.

The children need to learn about how others have feeling too, and about how their actions affect others for better or worse. In other words they need to develop their sense of empathy.

The children need to learn how to concentrate... not only on things that interest them but also on things that interest others... thus allowing them the opportunity to learn new things, develop new interests... just like sometimes you need to be brave and try a new food... unless you try it you don't know whether or not you are going to like it...

The children need to learn a whole range of social skills such as working in a group and making choices as to how they react to situations... by no means easy things to learn or master...

The children need to learn to communicate... they need a method of communication when they are pre-verbal, they need support in their early days of language development - to learn vocabulary, to learn to listen, to learn to take turns etc before they can start sharing ideas...

Philosophy is a process... and there are a lot of tools needed to be able to sit down together and be that community of enquirers that a philosophy session requires.

Of course it is NOT just the children that need to learn... it is a process for us adults... many of us that might not have been equipped with all of the many tools required to participate in a philosophical dialogue. We need to learn how to scaffold the dialogue so that it is the children's enquiring minds that are sharing ideas and learning together. We need to learn how to be in a position of power (in the sense that we are guiding the conversation within a framework) while still being open to the force of the enquiry... whether it is proceeding with speed or much more slowly than what you would like - to allow it to take the time it needs... it is learning how to balance and how to be a part of the collective thinking. This is especially important when most children look to the adult as having all the answers... here we are encouraging them to discover their OWN answers TOGETHER.

I am continually trying, assessing, trying again and reflecting some more. As the children learn new skills I need to challenge them some more so I have to think and rethink. And as I learn I too need to challenge myself and not get too comfortable with what I am doing...

Today I heard that it should be like a small stone in your shoe... just irritating enough to not let you forget to make you keep thinking about it until you have resolved it one way or another... and then in goes a new stone... and...

I also heard that crisis is the beginning of learning/education... I interpreted this as we need to challenge the children (and ourselves) - push them out of their comfort zone so that they are confronted with something new to learn about themselves, about the world and about others. This I felt was in line with the stone in the shoe... when it comes to children (to all people really) you have to ensure that the stone is not too big, or too sharp because then it will prevent progress... it should JUST be enough remind you that you have this to learn/experience/deal with before you can really move on. If there is no stone then there is no reminder, and one can happily continue where you are... but there is no development.
Necessity is the mother of invention... so in this sense a crisis is the perfect situation for learning... but I do not think all crises are HUGE... like today when we werein the middle of a philosophical dialogue and you are thinking "what are they talking about, I am lost" and then suddenly you get it - your mind has been challenged and challenged and its busy puzzling things out that it never has had to reflect upon before... there is then the opportunity to learn something new.

I see how this way of supporting children in their learning, in their ability to think and be a part of a learning community has strong links with the Reggio Emilia Approach.

Now I want to research this even more... to find out more about the practical side of pre-philosophy so that I can support and inspire other teachers to use this fabulous tool. Philosophy.

I presented at the conference too... talking about the art of listening... and how we have supported children - preverbal and in the early years of the language development (1-4 years old) - to communicate with each other... to hone their philsophical skills...

here are some images from the presentationthat I did... I will be developing this presentation for when I go to Canada... and sharing MORE about our journey with philosophy with very young children.

circle of chairs... I told the journey we made to find a way to support the children to sit together and focus on the listening rather than focus on where do I end and where do you begin... this is where I sit and don't touch me etc etc etc

Elmer elephant - and listening practice - see post here
the talking rings.. giving the dialogue structure... the ones holding can talk (one for the teacher) and the one not holding should be ACTIVE LISTENERS


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