After I published my last blog post on my #oneword for 2019, Lisa Corbett added a comment where she mentioned VoicEd Radio’s #onequestion19.
I must have missed Stephen Hurley’s tweet about this “one question,” but thanks to some searching on Twitter, I was able to track down the post. Since reading Stephen’s post, I’ve done a lot of thinking about my question. I kept thinking about this paragraph in my reply to Lisa’s comment.
Opposite of what I suggested to Lisa, I wondered if my question could evolve from my word. I kept playing with options, but it was a conversation over brunch this morning that helped me solidify my question.
I met with a friend of mine, who also happens to be an educator. We were chatting about the Kindergarten Program, as we often do, and we started to talk about educators being responsive to kids. I mentioned that I think this might be one of the hardest things that we have to do. As teachers, we’ve been taught how to plan lessons and activities. Planning is so important, but when it comes to teaching kids, are we going in with our agenda or are we being responsive to theirs?
I told my friend that as much as I know about, and value, the importance of being responsive to kids, even when I attempt to be responsive, I wonder if I always am.
- Am I listening to what kids are saying?
- Am I extending learning based on what they’re showing and telling me, or based on where I want to go next?
- When my mind is always full of Program expectations — including the Language and Math goals that I want to extend through play — am I sometimes focused more on these expectations than I am on the kids?
As much as my teaching partner, Paula, and I try to plan with kids in mind and slow down when needed, it’s hard not to stay focused on our Board’s strategic directions around reading and math goals. Our thinking is usually that by consistently inserting these literacy and math links, at the child’s level, in meaningful contexts, then they will continue to grow and meet benchmarks. We’ve certainly seen the success in this approach over the past couple of years, and yet, I can’t help wonder what other successes we might notice with an even more responsive approach.
- Maybe reading and writing won’t happen as early.
- Maybe a math connection will not take place at the time.
- But maybe we’ll help introduce some new vocabulary.
- Maybe we’ll help build oral communication skills.
- Maybe children will be involved in more problem solving.
- Maybe the learning will extend over a longer period of time.
- Maybe in the end, we’ll still get to the same place (with links to reading, writing, and math), but with students being even more involved in the learning process.
I anticipate this to be a hard shift to make, but I wonder about the impact that it might have on the quality, depth, and learning that comes from play. My one question then is, what impact might “truly being responsive to kids” have on a child’s academic achievement and social and emotional well-being? Contemplating this question will certainly provide many opportunities for Paula and I to analyze our documentation, consider our observations, and think deeply about our interactions with children. Writing this post is scary. I don’t know if I have it in me to do what I’m suggesting here, but I really want to try. Any suggestions as I begin to explore this #onequestion19? Anyone else want to chime in with a question of their own? There’s something very invigorating about taking a risk and trying something new.
Aviva, as I read your wondering about what you might notice with a more responsive approach, a wondering that sprang to mind was: I wonder if, in the end, the children’s learning will be deeper and your knowledge and understanding of the children will also be deeper?
As always your blog left me with lots to think about.
Oh Jill! Thank you so much for adding this question. What a great wonder. Now you have me thinking more about this other side of the learning: not just what the kids might get from this shift, but what we might also get from this shift. Hmmm … I wonder if my one question might need to evolve throughout the year. Thanks for giving me more to consider.
Your wonderings have spoken right to my heart. I, too, wonder if I am being responsive enough to children. Somehow, I always feel like I could be doing more, listening more, really finding out what they are curious about. I often look at a child and think, “What are your heart’s desires? What are you really interested in?” With so many children to interact with each day (there are 21 children with 1 teacher), am I really being responsive enough to each child’s interests? My goal heading back to school is to ask more questions in one-on-one conversations and to video document some of these conversations so that I can deepen my relationships by knowing each child more fully. I remember my own teachers growing up and fondly recall a few of them being truly interested in helping me learn about what I was interested in. I wonder if this is the very crux of what children need from an education in schools today- to know that someone cares enough about them to find out what they are interested in and then to help them nurture that interest. I wonder if this is the essence of what all humans need — to follow their hearts and pursue their own passions so that their lives have meaning and they feel fulfilled.
I feel that the goal of education is shifting, or perhaps it has always been the same? Perhaps it is us that lost our way somehow, and we are all trying to shift ourselves back to what really matters, what has always mattered, the children.
More questions than answers!
Cathy, thanks so much for your comment! Your wonderings really spoke to me too. I wonder if to get at the heart of what children are really interested in, we need to watch and listen A LOT. Then comes the problem of “time.” Even though there are two educators in our classroom, with 29 children, time is at a premium. Large, uninterrupted blocks of play, give us more time to sit, watch, and connect with kids, but sometimes I wonder, is it enough? Or maybe, we need to put all of these little interactions together before we make decisions about where to go next and what to do. Having two educators in the classroom helps, as we both have interactions with the same kids over the course of the day, so when we look through our photographs and videos together, and share our stories, we can determine some next steps together. I sometimes wonder though if our thoughts around Program expectations (particularly related to reading, writing, and math) narrow our views. This doesn’t mean that I think we should ignore these expectations … quite the opposite. But could we build on some of these skills even more organically if we also explore other ways to deepen the learning and connect even more with kids? I keep thinking about Jill’s comment, and I wonder what impact these responsive interactions might have on us and on kids.
I do love your idea to videotape some of these interactions. Paula and I do this a lot, and looking back on these videos, at the end of the day, in a quiet classroom, really helps us sometimes see and think about these interactions differently. While you’re alone in the room, I wonder if there might be another educator that could watch some of these videos with you. I often find that it’s the back-and-forth conversations that Paula and I have, as we look at this documentation as a team, that really makes a difference. And then there’s also bringing the kids back into the loop. What if you showed some of these videos back to kids? What might this inspire in them? What might they suggest about where to go next? This year especially, Paula and I have started doing this a lot, and it’s really helping kids build on some of their previous ideas. Responding to you, makes me wonder if these interactions might also help me with my one question.
Whether it’s a new goal of education or an old one (I do hope that it was always there), I must say that I love this focus back on kids. Children at the heart of education and learning. What’s better than that?! Thanks for continuing this discussion! I wonder how many more questions might stem from this question of mine throughout the year … and how this question might change.
I just wrote the most brilliant response, and my son clicked me off the page! Now you’ll never get to read it. ;(
I’m loving your question about being responsive to individuals. I’ll be interested in seeing how this plays out. I use Reader’s Workshop, Writer’s Workshop and Math Workshop approaches in my class, and by their very nature there is more one-to-one time with my students and I feel I can be really responsive to their needs. As Cathy said above: I am outnumbered! So it’s hard to meet with everyone every day, but I am happy with the end result.
I love reading about how the kindergarten program allows children to pursue their own interests. I continue to wonder about how this looks as the children get older. I have been trying to become more and more inquiry driven over the last 5 years, and thought this was my year to feel like I had finally made it! Alas, that is not the case. I’ll actually be doing a bit less in the second term. The things the kids are truly interested in don’t seem to match what the curriculum says we must cover, and I’m finding it really hard to meet those requirements without a fair bit of teacher direction. I guess the balance for me (my class this year) is that I will still need to do some “this is what we have to learn like it or not but I hope I can help you like!” teaching, with some opportunities for guided inquiry mixed in.
As always, your post leaves me thinking about other things. 🙂
Thanks Lisa! I’m so sorry that I don’t get to read your “most brilliant” first response, but I think that this one is quite brilliant. It’s interesting to hear your thinking about “being responsive to kids,” especially as children get older. Yes, the Kindergarten Program Document definitely allows for this even more. It really is about following the child’s lead, and the child is truly at the heart of instruction and assessment. I love this! That said, I wonder if “noticing and naming” allows for this to happen even more as kids move up in the grades. I do remember being inspired by the Kindergarten Document when I taught Grades 5 and 6. I used to use the curriculum expectations to inspire my provocations (and hence our questions/wonderings and further explorations), but still allow kids to have a little more control over their learning. It wasn’t perfect. But I found that I could still give more direct instruction, but within the context of the inquiry. With more specific expectations though, I wonder if it’s harder to be quite as responsive to kids. I can see myself responding to children within the context of their science or social studies inquiry, or even as part of Reader’s, Writer’s, and Math Workshop (I did similar things too), but am I still looking at the expectation and where to go next based on this (versus listening to the child and what he/she is thinking)? I wonder if I miss something with this approach. Not to say that we won’t still address expectations, but are there steps missing in between (to build the foundations for even more learning)? I’m not sure, and I don’t know if I can even articulate well everything that is swirling around in my head, but I do continue to wonder what’s possible. Thanks for chiming in on this discussion and getting me to think even more!