Earlier this week, one of my favourite bloggers, who also happens to be a principal with our Board, wrote a new post on her blog. Kristi shared an experience at a recent administrator’s meeting, and how this experience has led to some new, exciting September learning for her. She encouraged us to reflect and share about our new September learning, and as I mentioned in my comment, I said that I would do so this weekend. This post is my promise.
I always find September to be full of a lot of new learning, and even just new thinking about old learning. While I had a couple of different ideas to blog about, it was actually a passing comment (or, more accurately, a question) from my teaching partner, Paula, earlier in the week that helped me decide. At the end of the school day, the two of us always reflect on our day and discuss changes/additions to consider for the next day. One thing that I mentioned is that we have a few students that like to do one of two things:
- wander around the room.
- flop down on the floor.
While we tried to add some “reading road blocks” to help with this flopping and contain the wandering, some children continue to do both.
I said to Paula that these two things were driving me crazy, and we needed to figure out a way to change things around for these children. That’s when she asked me the question: do these things really matter? Well, of course they do, or they should … right?! And yet, the more that I think about this, the more that I wonder, could I be wrong? Do I need to reconsider why they matter so much? This second question led me to consider two different answers.
- I don’t want children to get hurt.
- Do “wandering” and “flopping” equate in my mind with disengagement, and is that what I’m trying to fix?
Over the course of the week, Paula and I chatted more about these possible problems. We found that the flopping happened the most on the pillows, and while having the books and pillows there helped stop running, it didn’t help stop flopping. So as pretty as the pillows look, we put them away and replaced them with two small chairs. The chairs also help prevent the running, and the children are regularly stopping here to sit and read. Success!
We also felt that some flopping (and rolling) happened in the block area, but particularly when the students used the Lego in this floor space. We decided to create two small Lego tables over by the eating table. While children will still take the Lego over to use in conjunction with the blocks, more students are sitting and standing over at these tables instead of flopping on the floor. More success!
Having tackled the safety concerns, it’s the disengagement piece that’s continued to have me thinking. Are students that wander disengaged? Why else might they wander? I was brought back to these two big questions when at school yesterday. As I was observing children during the day, I noticed one of the students that tends to wander. I saw how he often sticks close to an adult when he is not wandering. I was going to ask the child to pick an area to play, when I thought of another idea. We sat down together and wrote this list.
For him, maybe wandering wasn’t about being disengaged, but being inundated with possibilities. He still has lots of options on this list — and on the outdoor play one that he wanted to write — but now he can access them independently and make his own decisions. Will this idea work for everyone? Even if it does — or a similar option with visuals does — I’m wondering if it’s always necessary.
- When do we decide to co-create plans?
- When do we just let children take the additional time they need to make their own?
- Is wandering always a problem for the child or just a problem for us?
My September learning isn’t over yet, but this deeper exploration, thinking, and reflecting on wandering will definitely continue to be a large part of it. I try to see learning through children’s eyes, but my initial response to the wandering and flopping made me realize that I was thinking about my own uncomfortable feelings first. Thanks to Paula for my necessary reframe, and to Kristi, for pushing me to think more about this September learning. What’s yours? What insights can you add to my thinking about wandering? Here’s to an exciting new school year with lots of new learning ahead!
Once again I look forward to a new year of learning with your posts, questions and reflections. As a sub (TOC/Teacher On Call, Visiting Teacher, so many terms for my position), I have opportunities to look through a different lens the comings and goings of the students, in whatever grade I’m assigned to for that day. I still find my comfort level of safety and noise, impact my responses to the students activity level. Standing back and waiting before I jump in continues to be a challenge but one I’m aware of as my “Achilles heel”. I subbed in kinder this week, their first full week of school so everything is NEW. I share this because I feel a “slow start” is so important in the long run. https://faigemeller.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/that-slow-start-theres-no-rush/
Thanks for the comment, Faige! I’m excited to have a look at your post now. I wonder how it compares to how we started our program this year. I will say that taking the time to build meaningful relationships with kids, and make them comfortable and excited to come to school each day, is so important. This is what I want first. I’m so curious to hear what others think.
I think every educator has had a conversation with a non-educator along the lines of: (non educator) “must be nice to get to do the same thing year after year. You probably don’t even need to plan anymore!” (Educator) “uh, no, that’s not how it works.”
I always enjoy hearing about your learning, Aviva, and how your teaching strategies morph and evolve as you determine how they work for these students at this time. Because even if a curriculum, or school/board/ministry procedures don’t change (except they do) our students are always different and always changing. I will admit that the qualities I am most looking for in a teacher when I interview is: an ability to observe and reflect, and a willingness to change and grow.
You continue to be a good role model for other educators on both those counts. Thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to seeing/hearing September learning from more educators…also, as an aside, wouldn’t it be great if we also shared our September learning with our students? How great would that be?
Um, apparently grammar is Something I still need to learn. See above…”qualities ARE…”
No worries Kristi! 🙂 We all make mistakes. Let’s just call it a typo. 🙂
Thanks Kristi! I so appreciate how open you are in reflecting, and you often inspire me to do the same. I love the idea of us sharing our new learning with our students. I’ve done this before in other situations, but not with a similar topic. I wonder how the students would respond. Maybe they could add some more to my evolving thoughts on “wandering.”
I hope that others will share their September learning as well. We can learn so much from each other. Thanks for starting the discussion!