Monday, 21 April 2014

what are they thinking...?

Today I sat in the sunshine reading "making Thinking Visible" (Ritchart, Church and Morrison) as my son played in the fruit park (think giant banana slide and giant strawberry spinners), every once in a while to look up and wonder about what was happening in the playspace...

I mean there seemed to be more adults than children... or was that just because the adults take up so much space? There were children being lifted and being aided everywhere and being told to be careful to sit down.... and then there was my son acting like a lunatic hanging upside down out of the strawberry trying to make it spin and making wierd noises... in fact he approached every bit of play equipment and challenged "how-it-should" be played with... upside down, being on top instead of inside, going up the down and down the up etc etc... but there seemed to be a focus on upside down... he had also decided (I later discovered) to walk around the playspace like he was a character from Minecraft (he is VERY into minecraft... and rather excited by the fact that for his 10th birthday next week he will finally have access to his own account - we have avoided it for some time as his diagnosis has involved that managing gaming has been hard and sometimes an area of aggression - but we have a strategy for that and it has been working for the last year, and now it is time to really put it to the test)... any way back to the playground...

Of course I was somewhat pleased with the fact that my child was playing creatively, was taking risks that were not beyond him, but still a little challenging, that he reached out and played with others...

I had to laugh at some girls who started whining to their parents that the playground was boring and childish... they turned out to be 6 years old... as I had to ask.... What makes a 6 year old think a playspace is childish?

I wonder though... what are the parents thinking when they are in a playspace for children and yet their very presence is taking over what should be a children's domain...?

I also wondered about the child who just stood over her friend when she accidently knocked her over in a game of tag... I mean she just stood right next to her staring blankly and not reacting in any way while her friend was on the ground, in a heap, crying...
WHY do children do this? As I see this often in playspaces and at the various preschools I have worked at over the years. I would LOVE to know what they are thinking...

Is it because they are trying to cope with their own feelings?... that they see the crying, the hurt, and understand that, but are not yet mature enough to deal with responding to it? Or is it a mechanism to say "I didn't do anything wrong"... I have worked with children who have been able to offer support to other children when they are hurt (physically or emotionally) but totally shut down their ability to respond if they have had anything to do with the hurt (even if it was by accident). And I am so curious to know why...

Young Children Sympathize less in Response to Unjustified Emotional Distress is a short report by Robert Hepach, Amrish Vaish and Michael Tomasello - and applying my understanding of this report it could be that the children who have caused another child distress might not react so much because they were involved in the same accident and it did not hurt them so much, and that the other child was considered over-reacting... could this be a possible explanation...?

I once watched a documentary (I could not find it again to share) about an experiment where two people sat opposite each other and there was a machine they pressed to touch/apply pressure to the other person... the idea being that they had to keep touching each other with the same amount of pressure that they had just been touched with (both had been told this separately - so they did not know if the other had received different directives) - the first touch was automatically done by the machine... and the first few attempts to replicate this pressure was fairly accurate by the two participants... BUT there was a general increase in a pressure... and this continued, the machine measuring the pressure they both applied to each other... both with the directive to apply the same pressure as they had just received... but both perceiving the pressure they received as harder than the pressure that they had just given... and therefore it constantly increased...

You may be wondering why I am sharing this... I have always considered, when children play with each other and that boundary between play and hurt gets crossed... that THEN the child who did the hurting (by accident) is unaware that they have caused pain, but the perceived pain is larger on the receiving end... and put that research together with the research on Empathy/sympathy by Hepach, Amrish and Tomasello, then. perhaps, they are going to come to the conclusion that the friend/child is over-reacting and not understand how best to respond...


Do people "do" without thinking... are we pausing enough in life to think? About what we do? About what we are going to do? About why we do that? and why we do it that way? etc etc

For me as a teacher, and a parent, trying to understand the thinking of children is crucial... if I can undertand how they think it means I can better support their learning and development in an appropriate and meaningful way... and if I can support the children to see their own thinking, and become aware of the thinking of other... (the reason why we use philosophy with our preschoolers) then we are also allowing the children to see their own learning and develop their own understanding of the world as well as understanding how we all have different perspectives that are to be valued...
Of course this implies that we as adults give value to the perspectives of all children...



I didn't take any photos of the Fruit park today (it was totally packed) but here is a photo pf Sophia a few years back on top of the giant pear (not upside down like Michael was today!!)



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