Saturday, 1 March 2014

Are we listening?

Are we even aware of whether we're actually really listening to children?

I can't help feeling disappointed when I see someone come and land themselves right in the middle of children's play, imposing their own agenda in place of child-centred learning. Aren't we supposed to be listening to children? No, listening means really listening. When you were thinking about how impressed your boss would be if you implemented some spectacular experience and told everyone in the centre to come and witness it, you didn't notice that a child was telling another how much they love The Wizard of Oz, did you?

Precious moments and opportunities for learning are happening every minute if we are only listening. Children's voices are being lost beneath all our own motivations and chatter about educational priorities. There's so much we don't know about the children we teach because we're too busy trying to manoeuvre them into aligning with our plans, which are often about providing an educational program that is visible to others (others being peers, colleagues, parents and VIPs of the early childhood world).

This is the problem I have with long-term project work, because often you find yourself trying to somehow extend an interest beyond the point of interest. The child has moved on. A passing comment is not necessarily an interest. Drawing a group of children into one child's world has some value, but many more pertinent moments are being missed in the process. You tell a parent that his/her child is interested in fish. "Oh, really?" he/she says. Someone was drawing a fish so the child decided to draw a fish too, and that's where it ends.

Come on please, our understanding of educational theory should be much deeper than this. A snapshot of children's learning that is integral to their interest in that time in that moment has value. It could be an end in itself or re-emerge at any time. It could hold potential for a long-term project or play interest. What I'm trying to say is whether it is one or the other is important and should be absolutely clear if we are sensitive, intuitive, present and listening (no, I mean really listening).

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