Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The learning in a story

Today I worked for the last time with the advanced group. After playing and exploring the learning and then creating plans together they were given the challenge to read a wordless book and explore what ideas could be found for play and learning.

The group was divided into three groups... and the books used are

Flotsam by David Wiesner
Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson and Sydney Smith
Journey by Aaron Becker

There was 45 minutes to explore the books and discover the play and learning potential. The idea was to find as many as possible - to look closely at the images, at the ideas, at the details and to see how we could interest the children as well as follow their interests by providing materials and play/experiment/exploration opportunities.

The idea was to practice making plans, to be able to create play opportunities and to better understand the learning that happened within them... to not only increase their own knowledge of how play and learning walks hand in hand... but also to arm them with the knowledge they need to let parents know that play-based learning is real... that there is no such thing as just play - and just for laughs is no "just" thing either... as laughing is essential - to create safe relationship where there is trust, to create a relaxed atmosphere where a child can feel safe to learn and also laughter boosts the immune system, so keeping them healthier.

I was great to see how the educators used their knowledge of the play we had participated in the previous days - the play allowing them maybe to see details in the book that they would otherwise have missed...

and things like birds and flowers have become more of thing for many of the educators because of my fascination with them... I am continuously stopping to take photos... bird nerd that I am... no expert just love to watch and learn
myna birds watching the city of Jenin
At a later date, when my notes of this meeting are put into more oder... I will create the activity/play/learning plans that we came up with on this blog for all to take part in.

Monday, 19 March 2018

The story of a room...

Another short blog today, as the internet is being temperamental.

Today I have been sharing many images of preschool settings around the world with the educators here in Palestine... with the words do not try to copy this, that I am not expecting them to agree with what they see, or what I show is the right thing... merely that I show them many spaces designed in many ways... so that they can see the possibility of what can be done.
A learning space does not have a fixed look.

I talked about the importance of observing how the children use the space they have, are there areas that encourage the children to run and maybe crash into other children's play... and how can furniture help them create spaces where children cannot pick up speed... but at the same time being aware of providing a space and time for children to run freely.

I talked about being aware of colour... that it is not enough to choose bright colours just because it is thought children like them... that as educators we need to reflect on how colour affects the brain and affects the learning... colours that aid learning, that aid focus should be chosen, not colours and colour combinations that overwhelm, over-excite and overstimulate... sure these colourful moment can happen, but not for prolonged period of time.

I brought up how noise impacts children's learning... and if too loud impacts their hearing, and if really  loud (like it often is here) can actually cause permanent damage. We talked about how materials and furniture can be added to help absorb some of the sound, so that walls do not just bounce around and add to the problem.

I brought up the need for small spaces so that children have the opportunity to get away and be calm for a while, or engage in play with just a few other children. The need to bring the ceiling down in at least some areas so that the children can feel bigger, more powerful... many places here have high ceilings - very high ceilings... which is great for me as a tall person.

We talked about the availability of materials... how are they being displayed and how the room helps you as an educator to support the children in their play and learning - to be independent and capable.

We also talked about using the outdoors as a learning space, and the importance of being outside for full body play and learning.

The idea was to share lots of inspiration and thinking so that they reflect on the children, on what works... and of creating a learning space that is more Palestinian. Many spaces have Disney and Spongebob on the walls rather than taking advantage of the beautiful traditional Palestinian patterns to accent a room... also many of the learning materials are downloaded from the internet and tend to be incredibly American based... so I talked about the the dangers of a single story... that if their Palestinian children saw stories, films, and learning materials from only an American point of view, then this will become their inner story too... learning cards etc should not be blonde blue eyed children and police cars and buses and doctors of an American kind - but they should be images of how they look in Palestine.
In the same way Palestine is so much more than just fighting, guns and bombs - it is good food, beautiful nature, music, singing, stories, ancient history, embroidery, laughter, love and life like in any other country... they have many stories to tell...
and in this blog I tell the story of Palestine and early years teachers and play.
The room should be a Palestinian colleague - that can share about the world... but not an American colleague that forgets the story and beauty of what Palestine has to offer... even the educators here have been amazed at the photos of flowers and nature that I have been taking... they too have forgotten some of their nature story...

In Sweden, my room/learning space for the children should reflect our common Swedish story... with a window out to the world... always open to learn and to encompass, but never forgetting who we are. And sometimes who we are in a group is international and that should be reflected in the room too... not single story...

images taken 3 years ago at a center for young children here in Jenin...

Sunday, 18 March 2018

From play to learning...

So today here in Palestine, the advanced group has been reflecting on the play we have been doing all week with light and shadows and analysing it to discover what we have been learning... and with this knowledge we have written plans...

pointing out that these plans are not about how to make learning fun, but about allowing the educators to better understand the learning that occurs in play... so that when they offer play situations, or offer certain materials they have an understanding of the learning potential.
This means that the educator can better observe the children with an open mind... knowing that there can be many avenues of learning that the children might focus on, instead of having an agenda and steering the children into a specific form of learning.

Understanding the play... and combining this with their knowledge of the children - as individuals and as a group (through their observations over time) they can then make decisions that might allow certain learning areas a better chance than others...
for example
The light and shadow play might be used as a tool for helping children overcome their fear of the dark... then it might be a good idea to have small groups in order to adequately support the children to self regulate and learn to enjoy the joy of play even in the dark... OR it might be that there is a desire for the children to use their collaboration skills and negotiation skills... and therefore a larger group is used to expose the children to a possible social chaos - the educator supporting the children... the educator will also know how large this group should be to create a manageable chaos for the children to negotiate... learning will not happen if it becomes overwhelming.
Also what combination of materials are put out will affect what potential learning naturally occurs in the play... setting up things for shadow theatre is more likely to support language and literacy on a higher level than math... I say more likely, because children can often surprise us with what they learning.

We also took the time to explore how the play/learning could be extended - what extra materials could be added, how would different locations impact - introducing new facts, how would that impact the play... asking specific questions such as "Does light travel? How does it travel?" to get the children thinking on a more abstract level... and also to fuel the imagination... allowing the children to come up with their own theories and these theories being the basis of future learning, future experiments and future play possibilities...
it is important that we do not just have a series of amazing events that look cool online when shared, or that the parents will be impressed by... there needs to be time to reflect and to return to the same play in new ways... and also in the same way sometimes.  A series of cool events means the children just get to see the tip of the ice-berg all the time and not discover all that is hidden beneath the sea...
By thinking up a long list of possible extensions it allows the educator to be open to the possibility of any direction the children might take them. If during the introduction play of shadow and light the children show most fascination for making stories... then maybe a shadow theatre is the next step... if the children are more interested in how light works, then maybe reflections and sorting materials into opaque, translucent and transparent... if more interested in making the shadows large and small then maybe the opportunity to take in pens and start drawing around the shadows and measuring them... or checking how the sun creates larger shadows in the morning than at midday... this in turn will lead to new discoveries and new possible extensions...
And the time being open to the possibility of discovery new extensions, new materials and new possibilities to add to that list, so that in the future your planning resource becomes a better and richer support.

extending the learning... session 1 - light and shadow with torches and blocks and loose parts, free play. Session 2... with the instruction of creating scenes for a story - linking the shadow play to story telling, art and language. Session 3 introducing coloured light, mirrors and on a larger scale. Session 4 outside using natural light.
If I had more time I would allowed hands-on learning for some of the extensions they thought of... to see how they work in action.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Play play play - why I hold play-workshops

Today we played a lot... and I mean a lot...

And I know now, that I am not going to be able to upload the photos that I want to in order to write the post I want to right now about today... so I will write some other reflections instead...

About how we have reflected on the importance of joy rather than fun...
The idea is that we want to create a sense of joy within each child ... in their play and also in their learning - because then the learning will be genuine, rich, deep and more likely to be long-lasting...
Learning that is made fun (and then often called play) is not going to have the same effect - in a way its more like sugar... it gives you a high but the learning is not going to last as long.

What we want is slow learning - that the children have time to process it, they have time to explore it, they have time to see it from other perspectives and share ideas with others... they have time to repeat and test out theories they have already tried and add new ideas to it in order to see what happens...
If learning is made fun then there is more likely to be an agenda... less likely for the learning to happen in multiple ways, less likely for the children to discover new perspectives... less likely to come to a new conclusion than the one the teacher has already thought up...

The workshops I hold for educators are designed to get the teachers thinking on many levels... not just exploring play, but also exploring what it is like to collaborate with others like children do (in large numbers) - explore what it is like to have free range of materials and what to do with them... and then some activities are designed to be done in a specific way. Various forms of communication are given space to be used... hence the first activity was done in silence, so that they communicated with body language.
Some items are only given to one educators... as a test of how does it feel when not all get to try...
so it is an exploration of emotions as well.
Of course there is time to talk about all of this, reflect and return to the activity...

For instance today was the third time one of the groups worked with shadows and light... each time I have added something new... either new material or a new thought/direction... each time they have discovered something new about what they thought they had already fully explored.

It is so important that we as educators play with materials... explore how they work, how they interact with other materials, their relationship with other materials and the world around us - what learning can be found within this play. But it is equally important to do this with others and to reflect together with others... as alone we see with just our own perspective... but together we see so much more...

Original learning is for adults too... not just children...

I so long to share images from the workshop... but I realise this will be best done when i return home, as the on-off on-off internet makes it so hard to upload photos on my blog.

I guess it is about patience

light and shadows... and how different coloured lights make different coloured shadows... more about this in an up and coming post

bringing the sunlight in... in the end it took four mirrors to bend the sunlight to find me...

Friday, 16 March 2018

How I ended up in Palestine

I have been asked on several occasions how I ended up in Palestine... the journey has been shared, but over a period of three years... so maybe not so easy to track it down.

So I thought I would make things a little easier, and give a short story about how I come to be sitting in a refugee camp in Jenin, Palestine, right now... and for the next five days. I have been here for a week almost.

At the end of 2014 one of my work colleagues at Filosofiska (where I worked then) had connections with the Freedom Theatre in Jenin and suggested a collaboration. The owner of the preschool, at the time, was interested in spreading his passion for improving education globally and so applications for funds were made to The Swedish Institute, so we could make a trip to Jenin to investigate the current state of preschools and schools, and how best we could be of help...
we had two ideas - first - setting up a preschool which was play-based and where the children were empowered in their learning and
second - to work with a preschool in existence to work with a more play based approach and not the academic, strict approach that was visible in many settings -  this is partly due to how they have always done it, and partly because of parental pressure to make their children school ready.

In January 2015 I came to Palestine for the first time and visited many settings. I was impressed by the passion the educators have to give their children the best start possible... but of course there were things that were harder to deal with - the way play was being interpreted (in other words they were making learning fun - through race competitions and other means - rather than seeing and valuing the learning that happens in play). I could see that children were being controlled through physical punishment in many/most of the places I saw - not hard hits, but small taps (for the most part - but there were stories that horrified me) - and this did not sit with me well. BUT at the same time I am coming to another culture and I need to listen to the whys - not just impose my views of childhood...

I held a couple of workshops for one of the settings and also a presentation about play for educators... it was clear during and after the presentation  (especially of the images of children jumping in puddles in my presentation) that I had shared more than what many of the teachers were willing to listen to.
This is why it is SO important to listen first... and to introduce what the learner is ready for and challenge thinking appropriately. For children it is often about social/cognitive maturation and also physical maturation that makes it appropriate or not... with adults culture and history (both communal and personal) plays a huge role too - maybe a pivotal role.

In April a small party of educators and others from the Freedom Theatre came to Stockholm to visit  various settings to be inspired about how another way of preschools could be... I also held two workshops... one inside exploring loose-parts and play... and a second outdoor workshop.

After these preliminary visits it became clear that the best option to move forward was a third option... to start a course for educators in Jenin.

So once again funds were sought after and The Swedish Institute were again backing the project.
At this point the owner of Filosofiska dropped out of the project and I have continued as a private person donating my time.

I then worked from Stockholm helping to set up and form the curriculum for the course and came to Jenin in January 2017 and April 2017 to hold workshops, and lessons about play, child development, neuroscience's impact on pedagogy, various pedagogical approaches, the third teacher  - looking at how the space can help the teachers and children in the learning process (most/all settings have big images of Disney and Spongebob plastered on the walls... I have learned this is a requirement to be able to have a license to run a preschool here... the idea behind is that it makes it obvious this space is for children... obvious for whom I wonder... but that is a whole other post)... I also held outdoor workshops, loose-part workshops and a huge focus on exploring the learning IN play.
It has been about listening to who there educators are, their stories and their needs and changing the course to meet them.
So basically I prepare for these sessions by reading widely, bringing lots of materials, collecting lots of images - and being prepared to use the bits that are needed... so when I am not with the educators I am preparing for them. It is intense.
I have also done presentations and learning dialogues via skype... this is something that is best done after meeting them because then we have established a relationship and we have a mutual trust that is so essential for learning.

In August 2017 the educators came to Stockholm for an intensive two weeks of visiting settings doing workshops as well as meeting people from the library for children, the teacher training college and first aid training.
I know that many of the settings have a lot of children and small indoor spaces... so there was a two day focus on outdoor learning... so that the educators could really immerse themselves in the potential of the outdoors and that learning really does not mean sitting at a desk.

Now there are two parallel courses. One for last year's cohort - to advance their thinking - 6 of the educators have the time and means to continue... and I have based this course on their need to help the parents understand the learning value of play, as this seemed to be the greatest obstacle. So we are doing hands on play sessions and breaking them down into areas of learning afterwards... Then we make plans... so work out a play idea/activity and again write in the plan the learning, the aims, the materials needed, the time and also how the activity could be extended at the time and in the future.

The other group I am starting in the same way as last year... with an introduction to play, neuroscience (to understand the child's reactions and learning) and to loose parts... giving value to things that they never thought to give value to - allowing them to see the world with a new perspective.
Because once you start seeing things in a new way you can go on yourself to make discoveries.

Why am I involved?
Well I am no rich person, so I cannot simply donate money to help others... but I can donate time and energy.
I also think that we cannot just feel sorry for situations in other countries... we need to be active about them if we are truly to make a difference (and it does not have to be in another country).
I feel coming here is appreciated by the women I collaborate and interact with here. My focus is always on listening and a democratic learning/classroom where i define democratic as equality, respect, giving others value, feeling value yourself and participation and responsibility... all of this makes freedom. By working together we can be free together.

These are people that do not feel free... and they are in a situation that is complicated in so many ways. What we want is to support the children to not just accept their status quo, to think creatively, with respect and empathy and are able to come up with sustainable solutions in the future that will benefit all.

That is why I come. Yes it sound rather over-ambitious. But I believe that peace is worth making a stand for - or in my case, worth making a journey for and sharing what I know.

Just as in Reggio Emilia the mothers wanted the children to have the power and belief that they could make the future a better place - so is the case here.

me recharging my solar energy...
it has become a bit of a joke here that I will stand in the sun and soak up a few rays while everyone else sits in the shade...
but I know when I return I have a few more months of winter before such warmth will hit my skin... for instance right now in Stockholm it is -9°C while I have a glorious  20 °C- with 28 predicted in a few days!!!
And a rare moment with my sleeves rolled up... they are down when there are men around.
photo by Suzan Wasfi

I was asked the following
 I wonder if you could share more about the process of understanding others' cultures (or maybe you already have and I missed it). You said it's important to listen...what, then, do you do when a teacher in another culture expresses a perspective with which you profoundly disagree? How do you move forward toward a shared understanding that benefits children?
At first I thought I would write a new post about it... but then thought it might be best to simply add it to this post, so that when others read this post and wondered the same thing... then they could easily find the answer

what I found is that first you have to build trust before you can start to question each other about things you profoundly disagree about... because then you know that this questioning, this discussion, comes from a place of understanding, a place of working together to make it better for the children and NOT from a place that I know better than you and you should do as I say...

it also means that you have to be open about what they are going to say... to ask more questions to understand, to share what you have learned and observed through your own experiences...

As I mentioned above, I struggle with the physical and mental punishment that is dealt out (in any form). In my first trip in January 2017 as part of this course I made the decision not to bring it up. I made the decision to focus on the positive things that I could share that would make a difference... for the educators and the children - and also talk about brain research, trauma etc - as a kind of seed planting for the future.
At the end of the second visit in April I was asked the question by the educators if I had any ideas how I could help them stop the children from hitting each other... I felt this was the perfect time - I answered that I did not think it helped that they saw and experienced adults hitting children... their answer is "we do not hit hard" and "it is so they learn right from wrong". I answered that children will try to emulate this strategy... they will make judgements about their peers behaviour and hit to "correct them" (I actually witnessed that happening - one 2 year old was doing something the she should not... a five year old went over and spanked her and said "la" - no). Some children will interpret that they are being hit because the adult does not like what they are doing... so they will hit other children when they do something the child does not like... which will result in them getting hit back... a vicious circle.
They asked me if I ever hit my children... I answered truthfully, no. My daughter was in the room and she was able to confirm this... they sat amazed, as they perceived my daughter as a well mannered, intelligent human... and she managed to be this way without ever being hit.
After the session I went into town with one of the educators, my daughter and her daughter. Her daughter has a brain defect that has impacted her development - she needs constant care, and despite being 8 years old has not developed a verbal language to communicate. When we were in town the child started to walk out into the road, which would have been dangerous, the mother raised her hand to correct her by hitting, remembered what I had said, put her hand down and then observed how her daughter self corrected, got back onto the path - all without the need of being physically reprimanded. It was a powerful moment for the mother and myself... as the mother came to me... and said "did you see, I did not hit and she learned anyway".
It was pivotal for me. Trying to find that balance of listening and sharing... of understanding and struggling with a behaviour I profoundly disagree with... as I think any form of physical or psychological abuse/punishment/reprimanding does not benefit the child... or the educator/parent and child relationship.
I am quite sure that if I hit my adult students every time they misbehaved  or got things wrong it would not improve the learning, it would not improve the trust and it would not improve a playful and joyful atmosphere. it is more likely to create resentment, distrust fear and the energy would then be on that rather than on the learning... it might have made a quieter classroom/workshop, it might have meant they came on time, or took shorter breaks... but it would have meant the learning was less genuine... all I was doing was creating space for me to speak... not a space for learning.

I do not think it is easy. We always want a quick fix. But it is seldom going to work that way.
If I had been in a room where a child was being physically hurt or psychologically abused I am not sure what I would have done... what I saw was gentle taps (which is still physical punishment... I think sometimes their signs of love... pinching cheeks was harsher) - but I heard stories from the past and the present about children who are hurt to the point there was blood or a bruise. None of the educators I have collaborated with felt this was in anyway acceptable. But I heard of stories of preschooler being hit by rulers on the hand for not going to the toilet properly etc... of being reprimanded for not sitting and doing the work... (BUT that is a form of abuse that happens in other countries too... forcing far too young children into academics - I would equally struggle in some kindergartens in USA for that reason).

So I listen to understand. I build trust. I plant seeds of knowledge and research without directly targeting the problem - so that when the time is right - (in a way when it is developmentally appropriate) we can raise the issue to discuss it openly, fairly and with respect.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Illustrating learning and play

Today will just be a brief post... because I have been busy all day and I need to rest... but I promised myself a post a day... even if it was just a short one.

Yesterday I wrote a children's story based in Jenin with the idea of introducing magic, imagination and also points of learning...

I read the story today to the advanced group and then with their shadow playing skills from Tuesday they were asked to illustrate the story in six scenes.
First they needed to agree on which scenes from the story should be illustrated, and then each chose a scene.

I provided materials for them to choose and they explored light and shadows again to create the illustrations, which we then took photos of.

Afterwards we explored the learning... but also how this one story could offer months and months of exploration... I helped them break down each scene into science and geography explorations... into philosophical inquiries, into art projects and biological investigations - as well as language and literacy and math... we basically had the curriculum covered...

It is always so much fun to see how much learning and play can be found in a story - and my illustrating the story they found further learning and play  potential.

It is unlikely you will be able to work out "our" story from these images... but maybe you could make another story?

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The story of a stone...

Today's session was my second with the educators from the introduction course...
it started with a look at child development with a focus on neuroscience... learning about the brain and how we can be better educators by understanding how the brain works, reacts and learns. This is especially important for children that are more exposed to trauma... I used the book "The Whole Brain Child" by Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr Tina Payne Bryson as a basis for exploring this area... and also Alison Gopnik will be shared as a TEDtalk in the group we have on facebook where we can reflect and share more. Translating always means that time is as never as long as you want it to share as much as you want... so the group is a great way to extend the learning and reflection. The learning is not just when we meet in the group, but whenever they have time to go to the group and reflect on the resources I share there... including Stuart Shanker's website about self-regulating. Another great tool for them to use in their work with children here in Palestine.

of course when talking about brain research, about stress and about trauma then their own stories fill the room... stories of 16 year olds being in prison for 3 months and when they left their skin was marked with cigarette burns and their soul marked by the need not to be touched... she recounted the story of how a soldier started to harass her physically and her reaction was to bite to protect herself - the next thing she remembered is waking up in hospital connected to tubes and machines.
We cried together.
These are stories beyond my comprehension... a top student who made the mistake of running at the wrong time... in a way it reminds me of the stories from the USA - of Black Lives Matter and the young black males told not to run from the police for the risk of being shot.

it makes me think that we, who work as educators, have so much power... power to let these things continue as they are... or the power to help make change by encouraging the children to listen, to value each other, to respect and also to have the courage to do the right thing.

if you are also interested in learning more about self regulation you can check out site out by pressing this link

The Alison Gopnik talk you can see here - this will be with arabic text... but you can easily change the text to whatever language you speak of the many they have on offer... there are also transcripts available.

Each educator was asked to bring three stones... and also to talk about why they had selected these stones... stones are a powerful symbol in Palestine and this was made obvious by the fact that several commented that they are not the type that have stones or pick up stones  as stones are thrown in resistance - during the Infitadas - I was told during the first one the men would write their names on the stones that they threw at the soldiers...
One educators told the story of her stone that came from the school yard of her primary school and served as a reminder of that first day when she did not recognise her name being called out... the reason being that during the first infitada when she was a very young child she had become separated from her family and was taken in by another family who gave her a different name - 2 months later she was reunited with her family and they continued with this new name (I assume to help deal with the trauma)... but the school called out her birth name and this is why she did not recognise it.
Many stones were collected because they reminded of the sea, of times with the family... of precious moments... some were collected last minute and we laughed together. Some were collected with suspicion - why on earth is she making us collect stones...

Why on earth indeed...
Firstly I want the educators to see things around them in a new way... stones have the potential to be used in so many different ways and to provide learning and play opportunities.
Secondly... for them to realise you do not have to spend lots of money to offer a good learning/play experience
thirdly... because it is time to reclaim the stone and give it a positive reputation and not just the single story of "weapon"

(listen to this TEDtalk about the dangers of the single story)

After playing and exploring learning potential of stones, and adding other materials (and I scaffolded by asking questions and encouraging new ways of thinking) the teachers were pleased with this new learning material (not new to all the educators though).

here are a few photos from today's session
well... after not succeeding with photos at all last night... I have managed to share one right now...

It is important to listen to everybody's story - to understand where each person comes from, their history and how they base their present and plan their future. When supporting learning listening to the stories are essential to understand how they learn... regardless of the learner being an adult or a child. We need to listen with an open heart, with respect and with empathy. Only then do we have the chance to prevent the danger of the single story... to be open to all the stories that are on offer...

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Let there be light

Today was my second workshop... this time with the educators taking the advanced course... so these are the educators I worked with last year and also visited Sweden... the aim is to continue the learning journey.

We started the session by discussing what had been happening between last August when I saw them in Stockholm and today..
it was great to hear that they and parents had noticed differences... the children were more calm, more focussed and more creative... although there are still many parents who are pushing for the traditional academic approach instead of this play approach...

The educators had a greater appreciation of the potential of all materials - junk was no longer merely junk but a possible tool of learning through play.

Our main dialogue was about how could we support the parents who wanted the traditional academic approach to value the play approach... and by the end of the session we discovered that this could be done through us playing and analysing the play, and also by creating plans where we created play opportunities for the children and broke it down into the learning areas by curriculum, the learning aims of the play and how the play and learning could be extended through further experiences. This would definitely help parents to understand and connect the learning to the play and value it in another way.
It is also why we play first and analyse the play first so that the educators understand that there is learning in the play and not that we are making learning playful/fun.
The aim is also for the educators to hold play workshops for parents so that they can try this out for themselves too... so on saturday we will have a full day of messing about with materials and then exploring the learning as a way to support them how to do this with parents.

Today our hands on learning was an introduction to light and shadows... there was no purpose other than to explore... as next time we will play with the shadows and light in a more intentional way. First is the idea that the learners must feel comfortable with the medium.

The above film is an exploration of light on the ceiling as you can see....
OK I was going to upload lots of films about today... but I see that it is taking too much time to process a film... so what I will do is put a film together and connect it to Youtube... this might mean waiting until I get back to Sweden to share all the films I am making... but sadly my internet connection is just not allowing me to upload things... I keep trying... so you never know I might manage before then
I am putting together a series of 3 minute films about Jenin through the lens of early childhood education... I will let you know as soon as I am successful with sharing them...

so instead of films... here are some images of today's light exploration - session one.

shadow size, movement... to working out that this would be a great way to talk about how the sun moves in the sky and creates shadows in the city...

more shadow and construction exploration... with a light background

using plastic with permanent markers to draw details

using sticks to create criss cross patterns

drawing on plastic to create shadows (this i laminate without paper inside)

shining a torch through a plastic bag onto the ceiling

nature materials and storytelling (the storytelling is more apparent in the films... when you get to see those eventually)

experimenting with light, movement and photos

Next time we will play with light more... I will introduce more materials to experiment with and will connect to storytelling in different ways...
We will also make an activity/play plan based on this experience.

This post comes to you with the sound of guns in the background... not that you can hear them... but I have for the last 20 minutes... its a different reality than my usual one.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Learning to be free

Today was my first session with the the group of educators that are on the introduction course... so we spent essential time getting to know each other... I shared my history, my experiences and my education with them... and they did likewise...

part of teaching is understanding the learners... if I want to be a good educator for this group of women then I need to know who they are, what they are interested in so that I can create learning experiences that are meaningful.
This should be the same for all educators... whether we are working with adults or children... developing real relationships allows us to better understand how we learn and how we can create environments suited to this learning.

By listening it became clear that these women are passionate about what they are doing. They are eager and open to learn. And they are striving to offer children the very best they can. There was talk of freedom, of resistance ... not the kind of resistance that means fighting... but the resistance to be formed by someone else's story of them.

In a way the dialogue reminded me of why the preschools Reggio Emilia in northern Italy first started at the end of the second world war... parents and educators striving to ensure that their children would not follow blindly another fascist leader... but to have the ability to think for themselves, to make informed decisions and to act with humanity... to value others, to respect others and to participate in making the world a better place for all and not just a few...
Here are educators and children living in an occupied territory... they desire freedom, respect and value and peace... to be able to live without fear, without trauma and to be open, creative and participate with equality. it is powerful.

So we have decided that this course shall proceed to meet those needs... to provide learning situations that will give children the strength to feel brave, to feel valued, to feel respect, to feel loved... so that they know how to protect others, value others, respect others and care for others...
This will give them the emotional space to feel safe, to find joy, to play and to learn.

As we discussed what made a good teacher, based on their memories from their childhood of the good moments from school it was clear that we need to make each child visible... to see them, to validate them, to care about them, to listen to them and to create a space that is safe... not only physically safe but emotionally safe too.
We discussed how important it is that the whole community gets involved... it is not enough that the educators do this, the parents should not put pressure on children to learn in a certain way, but should support children to learn.

We then did some sorting exercises... this hand-on activity had several points...
  1.  the educators needed to collaborate, 
  2. two the educators were sorting things, as we had been sorting our thoughts
  3. there are many ways to sort the same things as there are many perspectives
  4. an opportunity to expand out thinking about the materials, what materials can be used, how we use them
  5. an opportunity to see learning in a different way
  6. an opportunity to reflect on what aspects of collaboration are easy and are not
  7. a way for me to observe the hierarchy of the group
  8. a way for me to observe how they first tackle the task and then respond to instruction
The first two times they got to sort without instruction... well I gave them the pots and a box of loose parts and told them to sort... they did this individually, sorting themselves, making their own individual collections. This is as I thought they would... each working well side by side

Then I asked them to sort together, but still I did not tell them how to sort the things... and this took me by surprise as they sorted by imagination... they created a work of art and sorted the loose parts into sky, sun, stars, water, ground, tree... I love to learn a whole new way of sorting.
The I told them to sort by size... biggest at one end, smallest at the other.... which they said was easy because the instruction was so well given - so I gave them another "well given" instruction - to sort by beauty... the most beautiful at one end and the ugliest at the other - this was not as easy and they needed to dialogue with each other a lot to find compromises... thus learning that clear instructions are not always about what makes it easy...
The they sorted on a time limit... and felt the stress of that...

To end the session we watched a film about button play... images of young children playing with buttons in different ways... from sorting, to creating art, to stacking, to telling stories to making stop motion films... etc

I am looking forward to sharing more and learning more with this group of educators.

sorted by their individual choices

sorted by collaboration... which turned out to be by imagination

sorted by beauty... most beautiful closest to the camera... they could not decide so chose to have two as the most beautiful as a compromise.

time for much dialogue... a way to support language building with children, participation, sorting skills, negotiation skills... the teacher can observe how the children interact with each other... does one child dominate not allowing others to make decisions... why? Is there a child not participating... why? Are the children able to compromise... why/why not... what can you do as a teacher to help them be better at making compromises or making decisions together as a group? Do the whole group agree? If not, why do they not agree? Did all children feel they could participate? Why? Why not? Finding out the why will help making other lessons and play work better, finding out the why not, might help with individual needs as well as group needs.
Do some children prefer to talk about this on their own because they feel shy? Maybe do the same activity with fewer children so they can feel more safe before trying to do it in a large group.
Do some children need more language support to be able to participate?
Fine motor skills are being given plenty of chance to be exercised here.
and there is so much more that could be discussed that a whole blog post on its own could be written... so I will end there.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Back in Jenin

it has been a long day.

At 4am this morning I was sat on a bus in a snowy, icy Stockholm heading for the airport.

Eleven hours later I arrived in sunny. warm Jenin.
Here will be my home from home for the next 10 days.

Ten days filled with play explorations.
This time I will be leading two courses... a beginners and an advanced course.
I will be exploring play, child development, pedagogy methods and approaches, documentation, the third teacher and listening - through presentations, dialogues and hands-on play-workshops.

We will explore freedom, collaboration and equality through play and learning in early childhood

I will be taking lots of photos, notes and sharing reflections here in this blog.
So please keep checking if you are interested in following this Palestinian adventure.

“My dream is that The Freedom Theatre will be the major force, cooperating with others in generating cultural resistance, carrying on it’s shoulders universal values of freedom and justice.” Juliano Mer Khamis The Freedom Theatre's co-founder

a panorama view from the roof of the Freedom Theatre over the refugee camp

oranges... from above

the sun going down over the refugee camp

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

The Reggio Emilia Approach... facebook group

About seven or eight years ago I became a member of the Reggio Emilia Approach facebook group - it was a small group back then... with a few active members... in fact Leigh Ann Yuen, Rachel Waxman and Naomi Yalkowsky Foster and myself were like a core group... we seemed to meet most nights online and chat about pedagogy and challenge our way of seeing learning, the children and our roles as educators... these three amazing people/educators will always have a special place in my heart.
Not all places I have worked at have been the quality that I have hoped for... and this group became my sanctuary to explore the pedagogy that I should have been exploring together with my real life colleagues (but they just weren't interested... or there was never the time)

The group has got bigger and bigger over the years... and I have had the great joy to meet and exchange ideas with more incredibly inspirational people... and I would love to write them all down here... but really this post is not about shout outs... it is about how do we create a group in the spirit of  the Reggio Emilia Approach when there are well over 33,000 people from ALL over the world?
How do you create a group that can discuss and inspire when there are so many different levels of knowledge and understanding?
How do we create a group that stays true to the spirit of the Reggio Emilia Approach when there are images posted that are more about showcasing than actual sharing reflections and knowledge... and what happens when images are shared that have nothing to do with the Reggio Emilia Approach, or practices that do not seem to tally with the approach? What responsibility do we, as a community of learners, have for those just starting out on their journey and seeing these images and seeing these strategies and are then under the belief that this is what "being Reggio" is? They are getting to learn the wrong approach!!

If you want to read a short account of what the approach is please read this post - I have many  many posts about the Reggio Emilia Approach... in many different ways... this will be my 180th post that I will put under the heading of the Reggio Emilia Approach. (The post I have linked here has further links to posts about the REA if you have the time to read more)

Finding out that there are those within the "inner circle" of the Reggio Emilia Approach that criticise groups like this for allowing non "Reggio" approach inspiration to be spread under the name of  Reggio Emilia  has saddened me but this is also understandable.
For me this approach has always been about collegial support and dialogue... of challenging ideas, but also about listening to know how to appropriately challenge - so that we grow rather than shrivel.
So for me to hear that there are those who feel the standard is not high enough, and yet do not take the time to drop by and write a comment to guide, or share something that will help others understand are therefore contributing to the fact that the group cannot truly grow. If EVERYONE with great knowledge and experience about REA shared one thing a week or even a month... or reacted to one post in the group a week - with advice, challenge and inspiration I truly believe that this would make a massive difference for everyone... and also help keep the group closer to its true intentions (group description and rules are included at the end of this post)

As educators (and others) that have enjoyed and embraced the Reggio Approach for a long time, and have gained experience and knowledge I therefore ask you to PLEASE PLEASE take the time to share your thinking... not just an activity, but the thinking, the process and how this links with your interpretation with the Reggio Emilia Approach.

If you are new to the approach, please ask questions... by answering questions we can also learn... I wrote a whole post yesterday based on the questions asked to me within the group... the questions got me thinking and rethinking, even to the point that I started to doubt what I believed in... i started to research and read and learn and then found greater clarity in how to answer, and that what I believed still held true... just now richer.
Doubt is not a bad thing if you take it as a springboard to learn and research and explore

If you are posting in the group... ask yourself first.. why am I posting this? what is the purpose... is it to share some good practice, is it to seek advice, is it because I feel proud of what I have just learned/experienced and want to share?
Then ask ... how does this help others to understand the Reggio Emilia Approach?  it might be that your question and search for advice will be useful to others as well, that the practice/activity/documentation/experience showed an interesting element of the approach... maybe how to better observe, or what you learned, or how moving a piece of furniture impacted the play etc etc etc
then ask yourself Do I have the time to spend a few minutes writing about my reflections? and Do I have the time to respond to people's questions and comments? Because if you don't, what is the purpose of sharing... be honest now?
Importantly you need to ask yourself Am I prepared for others to criticise what I have shared? Because if you are not then please wait until you feel ready. Criticism should be BOTH respectful and constructive... with the sole purpose to help others learn.

A few years ago... maybe more than a few now... there used to be the most horrible dialogues about the Reggio Emilia Approach versus Montessori in this group... where sometimes is got quite nasty... enough in fact that I had to step in and ban all talk about the Montessori method and Montessori inspired - recommending other groups that were specifically for these kinds of dialogues or just about Montessori (I provided links to those groups back then too)... I felt it was sad to need to do that... but it was taking unnecessary energy and creating a negative vibe in the group.

Then two years ago I started writing regular reminders about being respectful... as there were some members that would disrespectfully say to others that they were not being "Reggio" - and yet the "Reggio" they were sharing was not how I saw Reggio... it was more product than process - you had to have loose parts, you had to have nature, you had to have mirrors and a light table... it was about having the right things rather than having the "right" approach and the "right" view of the child.

I wrote posts in the group saying No photos without texts about the process where I got bombarded with negative comments about how a photo speaks more than words... but I was continuously seeing people misinterpret photos. I spent time reminding people to write and explain their process... I asked questions to stimulate thought... the VAST majority got ignored. I still think it is reasonable to ask that photos that are shared also require a thought process with them - this will not only benefit others in the group... but is also a great tool for you sharing to practice reflection - it can be seen as part of your work as an educator. If you do not have the time to write a few sentences then wait until you do have.

If your mother tongue is not English do not worry... ALL languages are welcome... this is not exclusively an English speaking group.. it is a group for all... to celebrate all languages - not just one... this is after all The Reggio Emilia Approach and 100 hundred languages is a pretty famous part of that... although I understand that this was not entirely what was in mind when the poem was written by Malaguzzi. ;-)
We can all help out with translating - please do not think that you can not join the dialogue because your English is not strong enough... take the time to communicate in the language you ARE strong in. The great part of it being international is that we should be seeing how the approach has evolved in all of these different places... how the culture and context has impacted... what will unite us is our view of the child, how we strive to create spaces of equality, participation and creation etc....

If you are answering or commenting then please always be respectful... listen to where the person is on their journey and how you can support them with advice, inspiration, appropriate challenge.
Never just say that is not Reggio without explaining why you think that or give examples of how it could be more "Reggio"... otherwise we are just criticising and we are not giving constructive criticism that others can build on.

Also when pressing the like or love button to a comment or answer... think that this means you are giving this statement power... if a person has ONLY given criticism and not constructive criticism, then you are also doing the same.. unless you go on to give examples or support, or ask questions to find out more... as maybe it was your misinterpretation... by asking we learn more about the process... often it is hard to share the process as a photo will look very product like...

This is not easy.
It is not easy to take critique from others. I blame schools for that with their tests and right and wrong answers. But I think that if we all strive to follow these rules then we will be able to create a fabulous group dedicated to exploring the Reggio Emilia Approach.
it is not easy to get things "wrong" to make mistakes... but this group should be a place we strive to make safe... so that mistakes are only seen as part of the learning curve.

This blogpost will become a part of the new pinned post at the top of the group. so that it is easy to find in case you need reminding of the rules or vision of the group..
 new members... and long time members should confirm that they have read this post, please do this by saying agree in the comments of the facebook group. ALL MEMBERS should do this. It is also a good way to see how active the group is.... and also to ensure that all have read the vision and the rules.
if you have any comment about how to improve the group then please write a comment in this blogpost... so that it can be easily read by those interested.

here is the information from the current pinned post...

Please, once you have joined this group take the time to read the description and the rules... so that you can like it or comment that you agree with it... as the group gets bigger and bigger, we need to have some kind of structure to ensure that this remains a group that is supportive, that we challenge each other's thinking respectfully, we enter dialogues with an open mind, willing to learn new things and to have our perspectives broadened.
A group where we share our processes... as this IS an approach that is about the process rather than the product.
All members are encouraged to do this... so even member who have been with us for MANY years, please take the time to read and agree...

PLEASE if you share images of inspiration make sure that you give credit to the owner of each photo! Many photos get shared on an individual basis... so it is important that each photo is given the right credit... not only so that we can give recognition to the intellectual property but also so that if others want to find out more about the source of inspiration we can take the time to look it up.

PLEASE also observe there are two sibling groups...
The Reggio Emilia Approach - product group share - where you can share products and find ideas about products - if sharing please write something small about why you think the product will suit the Reggio Emilia Approach
The Reggio Emilia Approach - courses and book share where you can share book tips, and course tips both online and in real life so that others can find them...
By using the sibling groups we can keep THIS group as a place of dialogue
many thanks.

The guidelines/rules for the group are... (and the problem with this is that you are not given enough words to write what you want)

A platform to promote dialogue between Reggio Emilia Inspired educators all over the world.


It will help us a great deal if your work or education experience is in your public profile. If not,  please answer the questions in the joining process. Thanks!

The main purpose of this group is as a learning platform... a place to start learning about the Reggio Emilia Approach, but also a group that will allow you to enter dialogues to help expand your understanding of the Reggio Emilia Approach.
This means that when you post in this group you must be prepared to answer questions, to be in a position where you use those questions to think critically about your own post so that you can gain a better understanding of your own work as an educator (whether you work in a school, ECE setting or as a parent).
This is not a group where we just pat each other on the back and say good job (although that is nice) - but a group where we dig deeper to explore what lead us to these amazing decisions... so that others can learn from our experiences.
The purpose is also to ask questions so that we can learn from each other, but we need to ask those questions in a respectful way, so that everyone feels that we can post - the things that work and also the things that don't work so that we can learn from them.

If you do happen to receive constructive criticism for something you post or a comment you make - please do not take this as a personal insult or attack... please take it as an opportunity to learn a new perspective... we do not HAVE to agree with each other, but we should all be open to each other's perspectives in this learning journey we are taking together as a group.

All ideas and theories are welcome. Since we come from many different parts of the world, with our own unique context, we can support each other in our development as educators in applying this philosophy in our classrooms. Please come to this group to listen, share, learn, and challenge our own perceptions as Reggio Emilia Inspired Educators.


- Posts on thoughts and experiences on education only
- Receive critique as an opportunity to learn.
- Be honest, but be respectful and sensitive to others
- As we say to parents: seek first to understand, then to be understood (in regards to miscommunication on posts)
- No offensive language/articles/pics!
- Only add inspirational quotes/images if you are wanting to start a dialogue (so with a question), . otherwise they will be removed.

Breaking these rules may result in having your post erased or being blocked from the group



So now you have had plenty to read about the rules, the guidelines and also the vision for this group... not just another group about pedagogy... but a group to really learn about the Reggio Emilia Approach...

here to end are a few quotes to inspire (in no specific order)... and hopefully over time... people will comment and add their reflections to this post too... so check after the quotes.

the reason why Interaction is the first word of my blog name...

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Critical Doubt

During the last 24 hours I have been engaged online (on and off) in a dialogue with Tom Drummond and it has been one of those exhilarating kinds of dialogues that gets your head turning somersaults... and there is also a healthy sense of self doubt that is critical for making progress in your own thinking...

in fact my doubt came about in the actual phrase "critical thinking" - what is it, what does it mean.. and that Carla Rinaldi chooses not to use these words together...

I wondered why she chooses not to use the word... of course only she can truly answer that... but I have found texts where she is connected to the words critical thinking

'Research is a habit of mind, an attitude that can be developed or neglected. It is a response to curiosity and doubt. It constructs new knowledge, makes for critical thinking and is part of citizenship and democracy. Like everything else about Reggio, research is not a solitary activity, but a process of relationships and dialogue.' Carla Rinaldi and Peter Moss.

and as part of the description of the competent child...

A child who is fully able to create personal maps for his own social, cognitive, affective and symbolic orientation.

A competent, active, critical  child; a child who is therefore ‘challenging’, because he produces change and dynamic movement in the systems in which he is involved, including the family, the society and the school. A producer of culture, values and rights, competent in living and learning.

A child who is able to assemble and disassemble possible realities, to construct metaphors and creative paradoxes, to construct his own symbols and codes while learning to decode the established symbols and codes.

A child who, very early on, is able to attribute meanings to events and who attempts to share meanings and stories of meaning.”
I have put the the word critical in bold text, as it is the word that I was intrigued by... what does Rinaldi mean by this... as she was the one that wrote down/interpreted the words of Malaguzzi. So I went to look up the word -
 Merriam-Webster online dictionary... (I also checked other dictionaries, not just one)

Definition of critical

a inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably 
  • His critical temperament cost him several friends.

b consisting of or involving criticism 
  • critical writings
also of or relating to the judgment of critics 
  • The play was a critical success.
c exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation 
  • critical thinking
  • critical commentary on the mayor's proposal
d including variant readings and scholarly emendations 
  • critical edition


a of, relating to, or being a turning point or specially important juncture 
  • critical phase
 : such as 

(1) relating to or being the stage of a disease at which an abrupt change for better or worse may be expected; also being or relating to an illness or condition involving danger of death 
  • critical care
  • a patient listed in critical condition
(2) relating to or being a state in which or a measurement or point at which some quality, property, or phenomenon suffers a definite change 
  • critical temperature

b indispensablevital 
  • critical waterfowl habitat
  • a component critical to the operation of a machine
c being in or approaching a state of crisis 
  • critical shortage
  • critical situation
d crucialdecisive 
  • critical test

a of sufficient size to sustain a chain reaction used of a mass of fissionable material 
  • critical mass

b sustaining a nuclear chain reaction 
  • The reactor went critical.
 So what kind of "critical" is this child as part of being competent... and also as part of being a "challenge".
As I read the definitions of critical I rather like the idea of critical thinking being something along the lines of "being a turning point or specially important juncture", the idea that the thought process are in a state of change, that we are learning and that our thoughts are at the point of moving from one accepted idea to another... or an alteration of one, or the realisation that another idea is not somehow right... is the child in a state of change?
Or is the child exorcising judicious evaluation that can make it difficult for the adults, as the child will not just accept the status quo, but asks questions until they feel they have found an acceptable answer, come close to their truth? I hope it is not the negative definitions where the child severely criticises, or is in danger...

So then Tom pointed out - is it critical thinking or thinking critically? BUT interestingly enough the definition of critically is EXACTLY the same as critical... so does this make a big difference by swapping the words around?... or is this about our relationship with the word? 
Because I have been using the words critical thinking so much in the last few years in conjunction with working philosophically with children the word critical no longer has a negative tone for me at all... its meaning has changed... but maybe for others it is harder to dissociate the negative tone of the word critical? I don't know? But it is something worth exploring.

Over the years as part of working philosophically with children I have thought a lot about thinking, often together with others...
I am of the opinion that there are many forms of thinking... just as there are many forms of learning and many forms of play... this all ties in with the hundred languages for me...

some forms of thinking (other than critical thinking):

  • reflective
  • empathic
  • creative
  • prejudice
  • biased
  • distorted
  • partial
  • uninformed
  • abstract
  • divergent
  • meta
listening is another way of thinking
and there will be more... but I do not want to write an exhaustive list... just show there are many ways to think - including daydreaming - but is that really thinking, or storytelling in the mind? Do we need to phrase it thinking reflectively instead of reflective thinking... ? Or do we just call it reflection? How does reflection differ from thinking? What impact does that have on our perception of what that kind of thinking means?

To find out more about what critical thinking means... check out this page as they go into much greater detail and with several thinkers sharing their definition of critical thinking... far beyond my thinking capacity at this present moment... 

Tom Drummond wrote
... words we use in our dialogue can have a shared meaning because we have a relationship. The long relationship with your best friends sharpens the communication. When we use words outside of relationships, it is different.
This is, as Carla says, all in a context of relationships and dialogue. I would add trust. It is also in a context of documentation. We have artefacts to ground meaning-making. Artefacts we can revisit. Relationships that evolve. New meanings can be made in each here and now. 

If we can look back at ourselves over time, re-co-construct the meaning of our shared history, we then share that, too. This is the meta-cognition where we are up another stair in the path of life.

The Municipal Preschools and Infant Centres of Reggio Emilia, Italy, have gone up many stairs.

And it is so true relationships are so important in our dialogues and our understanding of how we use words... it is why we need to build trusting relationships with the children and with our colleagues... it is why we need enable the children to trust each other - so that their dialogues and play have the element of truth, their communication is of a kind that they can all participate in and all understand. And when we have the understanding we can push our thinking further... we continue to go up the stairs is we are to use Tom's analogy.

I think, though, that thinking is more cyclical... or in waves... or sometimes walking up the down-escalator and it feels like you are going no-where... a kind of trapped on the merry-go-round feeling.
But thinking with others can help you start in the right direction, or get off that merry-go-round to pursue new thoughts...

I also think we have to be aware that there are many of these so called "stairs" - while the municipal preschools in Reggio Emilia might have gone up many stairs in their documentation, their collegial dialogues etc... I know they have not gone up an many stairs within outdoor learning or norm-awareness (anti-bias) as Sweden has ... and I think this is so important to reflect on... that we all have so much to offer each other because we have all been focusing on climbing different stairs...

we need to be open to the thinking of others - to allow our own thinking to evolve - we need to be aware of our own thinking and whether it is there to meet an agenda or whether it is there to explore an idea... when is it doing what... ? and how do we know?

I felt working philosophically with children made me so much more aware of my own thinking and my own participation and how I shared my thinking and was more aware of the children's thinking - and how their thinking connected with each other and with things we had experienced etc etc. I realised just how much power my thinking had over the group not just when I was sharing my ideas and thoughts... but also when I thought I was not participating... my non-participation says something too (why not at this moment, and why at other moments) - my body language and facial expressions can give lots away about what I think... I do not have a good poker face...
Being aware of my power in the group was fuel for thinking about how I could empower the children...

But back to the exploration of critical thinking...

it all started in a dialogue about what is "scaffolding" in practical terms - what do you actually do to scaffold...? which developed into a question - what does encouragement mean...? how do you actually do that...?  that lead to support and what is that...? that lead to the critical thinking exploration

I so enjoy exploring words - digging deeper in my own understanding, definitions and interpretations of words... learning from how other define words... we create new relationships with words that allow us to gain a more nuance understanding of dialogues in the future... as a word used in a sentence is no longer just a word it is a symbol for a whole lot of of meaning-making.

It kind of reminds me of attempting to read James Joyce "Ullyses" - there were times when I struggled to follow, well just didn't get it... and there were times when I got it because I realised he was using one or two words to describe a situation that would require pages normally... because he would refer to something from another piece of literature or something... for example there was one sentence that only made sense if you had read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar... because without that knowledge the sentence just contained some random words in it that did not relate to the previous pages... It made me realise how much I must be missing because there were probably loads of these "hidden" meanings. Would having a dialogue and relationship with James Joyce been a key to understanding the book due to creating a common language?

Below are some quotes about thinking...

creative thinking... to be aware of what the established pattern is, whether it needs to be change, what change is needed and how to go about that...

actually "support" was another word that was questioned in the last 24 hours... what is support... how do you support... when is too much, when is too little... ????

and we need to think about how do we listen to the thinking of non-verbal children... how are we receptive to that... what enables them to share more, what in our behaviour limits them?
yeah... I like this photo of my daughter holding an egg that had just been collected from the hen house and washed - it was warm.