As educators, there are many things that we want for our students.
- We want them to develop their academic and social skills.
- We want to see growth in their abilities.
- We want them to be able to self-regulate, and to recognize the strategies that work for them.
- We want them to see school as a safe place where they want to be.
Surely this list is not complete, but it does highlight many of our wants/hopes. In the past few weeks though, I was reminded of something that impacts on all of these “wants,” and maybe in some ways, is the most important one of all. We want students to be independent enough that their success is not just based on our gentle nudge and/or support. This blog post is a collection of different stories, but all of which speak to this independence and the kind of growth that makes our hearts happy.
This first story happened last week, when one child came to school upset. Her tooth was loose, and she had never experienced this before. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen, and she was scared. We talked more about this outside, and she started to feel better. The amazing part though happened when she lost the tooth. Not just had it fallen out, but she actually lost it!
Yes, the teacher in me is usually looking for the teachable moments to do a mini-lesson or edit work with kids. In this case, I couldn’t do either. I was so incredibly proud that after months of suggesting different opportunities to write, this kindergarten child CHOSE to problem solve by writing.
The other stories happened yesterday. The first one was an accidental discovery when a child pulled his snowpant strap over his head, and split his face in half. This is when he commented on being “symmetrical.” This led to other children trying the same thing, and exploring what parts of them might be symmetrical, and what parts might not.
My teaching partner, Paula, and I really believe in the pedagogy explicitly outlined in the Kindergarten Program Document, which speaks about noticing and naming mathematical behaviours in the context of play. This is how we approach math. Sometimes there’s the question though of is this enough? I will say that in 13 years of teaching kindergarten, it’s only in a play-based environment that I’ve ever had children apply math learning in a context such as this.
The second story also happened early in the morning. I wish that I recorded the conversation, but it happened so fast that I never got the opportunity. A child was really interested in the shirt that I was wearing. Why? Because of the “concentric shapes.”
Recently, I mentioned in another Instagram post, that it was Paula who inspired me to even think about introducing famous artists to kids. Not just introducing them, but reintroducing them again, and again, and again. We talk about their techniques. We look at what’s communicated through their artwork. And we get kids to apply their learning in different ways.
On Friday, I was reminded of just how much this works, for in a totally different context, this student used our new vocabulary to show his understanding of concentric shapes.
Finally, there was the glue problem. We had a container of glue on the creative table, and a couple of children noticed that the glue was leaking. Instead of calling one of us over to the table or yelling about the problem, these two kindergarten students solved it on their own. How? With some paper towels and a note.
Not only did these students CHOOSE to write a note to solve a problem, but they knew that their classmates would honour this sign. And the other children did. After focusing so much on the power of the written word, kids are showing us just how much they understand this.
While I’m sure that there are more examples here to share, these ones really stuck out to me, as not only do they include oral language, reading, writing, and math, but also thinking skills, problem solving skills, and independence. All of these examples remind me that we don’t always need big aha moments to know that a program is working, to know that children are learning, and/or to know that there’s been growth. Sometimes it’s the small moments that matter most. What are some of your little (big) defining moments? As another school week is about to begin, I think it’s worth celebrating success. What about you?