Monday, 31 October 2016

T.E.A.C.H... my top five words...

Inspired and encouraged by Gillian Judson (@perfinker on twitter) I have thought about what my "teaching top 5" are. (see Gillians post here)

So basically using the word TEACH to inspire you to find words...

Of course I am sort of moving away from the word teach and moving to the word facilitate... as I am supporting the children's learning - but it could be fun to see if I could re-define teach for myself....

T - time
E - ears
A - awareness
C - co-researcher
H - hundred


So why these words?

TIME
For me this is a word that is so essential for learning... it takes time... it is always a process, and often society is in such a hurry for children to meet development milestones that they forget to trust the ability of the child... that the child is competent if given the time to try, to play, to explore, to fail and try again.

a post about TIME... but also reflecting on boredom - this seems relevant right now as i am seeing memes about children needing to be bored going round FB again... I really don't believe that children should be BORED... but maybe we as adults should not be afraid of children expressing this and letting the children find their own creativity to fill their time... often we do not give children enough TIME to learn how to fill it themselves, and have become dependant on adults...?!


EARS
Listening of course... if there had been an L in the word teach then it would have been listening... but I had to improvise and utilise the E - I mean we need to get creative as educators don't we?
There are many many blogposts to explore here about listening... the importance of us as adults to listen to the children, but also supporting the children to learn how to be good listeners to each other.
Philosophy dialogues with my preschoolers have been a great way to support listening... respectful listening, where the children learn to listen to understand rather than listen to answer... something we adults need to practice too...

here is a link to 50 posts I have written connected to listening

AWARENESS
of course as teachers we need to be aware of what is happening with the children, with the third teacher... of all the interactions going on - with each other, with the materials... so that we are better able to meet the children's learning and development needs... not just as individuals but also as a group. We live, play and work as a community... we need each other... so we also need to learn to be aware of each other's needs. Not just as an educator being aware of the needs of the children... but also the children being aware of each other's needs.

its not supposed to be easy - this is a recent post sharing how i strive to support the children to be a community of learners... it is not always the easiest route to take... meeting the needs of the individuals by doing individual art would be so much easier... but then they do not get the TIME or opportunity to practice collaboration, conflict resolution etc etc - they do not get the chance to become aware of how their actions can affect others, or how their reactions can affect others... it is a process that requires time and support.

CO-RESEARCHER
C was the hardest one to choose... there is creativity, critical thinking, competent child, community of learners, curiosity, communication, collaboration... in the end I chose co-researcher because it defines me as an educator not as a know all adult filling the child with information... but me as a person learning about learning... learning about the children as individuals and as a group, learning about my own capabilities...
I learn and find out together with the children... younger people also learning about learning, learning about the world, about each other, themselves, learning to trust me...
We research the world together...

this is a link to a post where I write that I am Malaguzzi inspired rather than Reggio inspired - it mentions about being a co-researcher... of learning WITH the children... not filling them with information.

HUNDRED
It had to be... didn't it... I did consider humour... as without joy there is no learning... but then felt that joyful learning could be one of the hundred...
The many different ways I need to listen to the children, to support there many different ways of learning, their many different ways of communicating their ideas...

This post explains more about the hundred languages and the fact that there then must be a hundred ways to listen...


So, there you have it... my T.E.A.C.H...
what would be your T.E.A.C.H. top five words?

Monday, 24 October 2016

Changing direction

Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith...

and that is what i will be doing in 2017...

I have resigned from my position as director at Filosofiska preschool and have decided to spend time gathering material and writing a book... using this blog as a kind of springboard.

It certainly is daunting to leave the children and my colleagues... but I am also excited about the new learning possibilities.

I am hoping that I will be able to get the chance to travel and share inspiration, and learn from others too.

In January I will be returning to Jenin in Palestine to teach at a early years educator training course that the Freedom Theatre has started there... with the idea to introduce more play and more listening into children's learning environments. I plan to be there at Easter too, so that I can take my teenage daughter to experience (a glimpse of) life in a refugee camp.

In February I will be heading to my hometown of York, UK, and hope to set up some opportunity to present and visit some early years settings - we shall see what happens.

As for elsewhere... well I will just have to wait and see what the future holds for me...

As for the images in this post... well a few quotes that inspire me... a few of many quotes... There is much that inspires... much that makes me wonder... and many questions I seek the answer to... no doubt only to find more questions... but that is half the fun!













Sunday, 2 October 2016

Professional Development of the Third Teacher. 6

This week I would like to return to the idea of making the preschool beautiful... or aesthetic...

This is something I struggle with a great deal at the place I work because we are still trying to create a learning aesthetic with a philosophical profile for the setting that was once a post office.

If I was to design a preschool from scratch... the floor plan would not look like the one I work with. BUT this old post office is the setting that I have to work with. This means I have to collaborate with this third teacher that I don't really get on with... and I didn't from my first meeting....

I remember when I was interviewed and being shown around the preschool this feeling deep within my body that the setting and me were not terribly compatible... the thing was, I loved the vision of the preschool, I loved the idea of using philosophy with the very young, the idea of learning something new with the children. So the approach, the philosophy convinced me that with time the setting and I would learn to get on with each other...

And yes, we get on these days... but it is not an easy relationship.
There have been many changes over the years... trying to make the rooms smaller (as they kept saying run run as fast as you can to all the children) and also working out how best to place our materials.
At times we have had TOO much stuff available for the children... making it impossible for the children, and us, to keep the space inviting ... as the messier it got the more the children seemed to move on and play elsewhere.

This could be easily seen when a teacher came and sorted the table tops and presented it in a manner that once again appealed... children flocked back to play.

So I find there is always this balance between what adults think is beautiful and orderly, what children think is beautiful and orderly (which can look like chaos) and to that place of real chaos that does not invite play...

I am not afraid of chaos... Matti Bergström (a brain researcher Finland/Sweden) said that creativity is born in chaos... he also talked about white play and black play... white play being teacher/adult controlled and "appropriate" while black play is chaotic play, more rough and tumble and deemed less appropriate...  I am going to be looking more into this next year... for the moment I don't have time to dive into this, and I feel it can wait... (as I am not so keen on the names for the play... a little too stereotype for me... and also I am not sure how much weight we should be putting on brain research from the 1980's and 1990's when this is an area that has really exploded knowledge wise in recent years...)

Back to the preschool...

The floors for me disturb me... but this is probably just a me thing... I am not one for grey floors... and I know they have been chosen so that they do not impose on the children... ie a relatively neutral colour... but for me it is not neutral, it is so loaded. I find the floors depressing.
I am one of those people that really needs wooden floors, or much lighter floors (or fake wood even) to lift the room. But this is my relationship with the floor.

We also have several rooms that do not have windows... and this is also a problem for me... I need daylight... especially in Sweden when in winter there are not many hours of daylight... This means we are unable to have a preschool where each age group has its own space/room... which group would want the windowless room? (if that was even allowed).
Also many rooms lead in to each other... this means that even if we had decided that each of the four groups had its own "classroom" only two of the groups would be able to get in and out without walking through another groups room. Not exactly optimal.

So we have had create a preschool where the whole preschool is available to all the children...
this means we have to have a schedule so that all groups get access to all areas without us disturbing each other... we can't all be in the atelier at the same time... or any of the other spaces... and since some of the rooms link on to each other without walls, we also need to take that into consideration when making plans... it is hard for children to focus in the atelier when others are playing a loud and interesting role-play on the other side of the shelving...

It has also meant that we have to think how we display materials, and how we tidy up... and how we as teachers have to have a level of control that we probably would not need if the groups were divided by age... small loose parts can present a choking hazard...

It also means that it can be hard for the older children to save their constructions when 1-2 year olds need to go round like Hulk smashing things and checking out gravity... both have needs that should be met...

So no, my third teacher and I do not see eye to eye... it does not let me be the educator I want to be... I have to compromise and be the best educator I can within my context... and that means keeping the children safe... and allowing all children the freedom to play... the 1 year olds right up to the five year olds... the quiet children, the noisy children - those who want to sit and build/draw, small world play... and those who want to run, dance, crash and have big theatrical role-play.
Its is a challenge to support the third teacher to meet all these needs... and as educators we have to be ever active in that process... sadly as yet, the third teacher is not fully competent on its own...

Stripping the preschool of most of the toys and just leaving natural loose parts has been a great way for the third teacher to gain some autonomy... it has been working... and we have things like buttons etc that we can take down from high shelves to work with the children when we sit with them... 1-5 yr olds all play with the buttons... and yes... bright colourful plastic buttons... I am not against plastic or bright colours... I do look for plastic that is not harmful. Afterall we want a sustainable environment - but not a monotone one. Colour needs to exist... the children need to be exposed to all sorts of materials... not just natural ones.