What’s Your View Of The Child?

I don’t usually keep drafts of blog posts for very long, but this post has sat in the Drafts Folder for almost a year. There are questions in here that I continue to contemplate, as every classroom has students in it that are at different developmental levels. How do we help all students realize just what they’re capable of doing, and provide the conditions to allow success for all? A year later, I think about Karyn‘s talk from last year, and decided to publish a long overdue post. This is that post.

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This morning, I had the opportunity to listen to Karyn Callaghan speak as part of a Kindergarten Networking Session in our Board.  Now that I’ve had the chance to listen to her once, I hope that I’ll be able to do so again. Many things that Karyn said really resonated with me, but the words that I kept coming back to throughout the day were around our view of the child. As mentioned in Think, Feel, Act: Lesson From Research About Young Children“The Ontario Early Years Policy Framework presents a view of the child as competent, curious, and capable of complex thinking” (page 13). This is a view that I believe, but as I nod along to these words, I also have a questioning voice in my head that is causing me to stop and think. If I view students as “competent and capable,” how does this mesh with any questions/concerns that I may have about “struggling learners?” Can these two thoughts co-exist, or if I’m saying that a child is “struggling,” then am I not viewing this child as “competent and capable?”

Kindergarten is a child’s first experience in school. Some JK students are just turning four. They just became toilet-trained. They’re just learning to make it through a day without a nap. This may be the first time that they go somewhere without their parents. Children may be biologically four- or five-years-old, but developmentally, some of them may still be like toddlers. What happens when biological and developmental ages don’t align? If we think about children at their developmental level, then instead of seeing a “struggling learner,” would we see them as “competent and capable” at the level at which they’re at? 

I know that for us, we strive to program with each child in mind, and support the learning at each child’s developmental level. We try to make learning meaningful, and pose problems to get children to think more. I wonder though, is this enough? What more can we do to show children that we view them as “competent and capable,” and to ensure that all children see themselves in this same way? Karyn’s talk left me with more questions than answers, and I pose these questions to you here with the hope that we can make sense of them together. I know that as I go back to school tomorrow, I’ll be looking at our students through fresh eyes and asking myself, does our view of the child align with our classroom practices? What more could we do?

Aviva

10 thoughts on “What’s Your View Of The Child?

  1. My old school is going through an accreditation process (happens periodically) and I was in kindergarten on the day kinder teachers were asked that question and others. In this case does “Do we meet the needs of our students addressing differences or readiness (more or less that was one of the questions)? Difficult question to answer honestly if we look at the different students that enter kindergarten and where they’re at. How is the program geared to their “readiness”? Do we see kinders as emotionally and academically ready? Do we look at DAP before we implement a curriculum that may not support a diverse group of learners? You ask thought provoking questions, Aviva. Hopefully questioning practices will benefit students and teachers.

    • Thanks for the comment, Faige, and sharing these more recent experiences of yours! Your comment made me think about something that’s changed since I initially wrote this post of mine: our new Full-Day Kindergarten Program Document was released. The Document gives us permission to go back into the ELECT Document if students are not meeting the Kindergarten Program expectations. I wonder if doing so makes it easier/more feasible to meet the diverse needs of our learners and make everyone see themselves as “competent and capable” regardless of what developmental level they may be at.

      Aviva

  2. Reading this post made me feel a little embarrassed. I have the same view of the child as “competent, curious, and capable of complex thinking”, but I never really stopped to question myself on how I could put this vision into practice.

    Perhaps it’s because I haven’t really been in the field long enough (still a student). Perhaps I’ve been quite naive and too idealistic in believing so much in children. I don’t know… My experience has revolved around preparing developmentally appropriate activities, but I’ve always followed the children’s leads and didn’t care much about meeting program expectations.

    What I do know is that you’re right – thinking about children’s competence against their developmental level makes more sense. My high school teacher once explained to the class that one does not “excel” simply by achieving high marks, but by reaching one’s current potential and more. He said that if a student is capable of getting a 95 but only got an 88, that student is doing well, but not excellently. On the other hand, if a student is capable of getting a 75 but received anything equal to or higher than that, then this student has excelled despite not stacking well against his/her peers.

    Maybe supporting children in crossing what Vygostky calls the Zone of Proximal Development would be a way for us to show children that they have the necessary skills to do something successfully. After all, what matters most is how we make the children feel about their accomplishments and shortcomings, wouldn’t you agree?

    • I think that you make some wonderful points here, Camille! It’s interesting to read your comment after reading Jill’s. You actually wrote yours first, but the two of you talk about “potential,” and as I said in response to her, I think there’s something to be said for this. I was actually talking to somebody recently about Vygotsky and the Zone of Proximal Development. I come back to his work a lot when I look at planning for students. There’s so much value in providing the “just right opportunity,” so that students can meet with success and show us just what they’re capable of doing. I love how you mentioned that you “follow the child’s lead,” and really focus on the child. That’s at the heart of the new K Document: looking at children first. Thanks for your comment!

      Aviva

  3. Wonder how our thinking would change if we used the whole quote: , “competent, curious, capable of complex thinking, and “rich in potential”. How do the last 3 words change thinking?

    • Excellent point, Jill! I often default to looking at the first part of this quote, but the last part does change things. If we think about the potential, then do we also see students through the lens of a “growth mindset” and “what is possible?” I think there’s something to be said for that.

      Aviva

  4. A person can be competent and capable and struggling. I like to think that I’m a competent and capable teacher, yet I still struggle all the time with how to best help students to learn. If we view students as competent and capable, we view them as being able to get through their struggles with our help. In my mind, they are not mutually exclusive.

    • Thanks for the comment, Melanie! This makes a lot of sense. I wonder if we also view them as being able to “get through the struggles on their own,” if provided with “entry points that are realistic for each of them.” Hmmm … You have me thinking more about this.

      Aviva

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