Reframing Independence

I feel as though this is going to be one of a few posts on the topic of reframing. Back-to-school this year, in the midst of COVID, has all educators relooking at what they’ve done in the past and what can be done now. Safely. For educators. For kids. For families. I know that safety is the top priority right now, and one of many things that I appreciate about our Board, are the numerous protocols that they’ve put in place for safety. But sometimes I also struggle with the feeling of change that comes with these new precautions. I had one of these experiences this morning.

Today, as I was drinking my coffee, I read this tweet from Sally Haughey.

She got me thinking about how we’ve supported and encouraged independence in our classroom. Then I started to feel really sad.

A great thing happened though as part of our self-directed PD today, when I connected with my teaching partner, Paula. She helped me reframe independence when we started to relook at our classroom set-up.

Yesterday, we went back into our classroom space for the first time since we packed up at the end of June. Knowing the social distancing requirements, we started to play with our organization.

Then, just before we were about to leave for the day, we found out a little bit more about the “facing in the same direction” rule, and so we shifted our space.

This morning though, as I was eating my breakfast, I kept staring at these pictures, and I began to wonder if one table was enough room for two people. Yes, it’s a metre long, but we know kindergarten children. They don’t stay on the ends. They’re going to want to spread out their materials and spread out their food. I had second thoughts. So I connected with someone that might know more. Then I texted Paula, and we began to play with a few other possibilities, which will likely include more desks and more tables. (There is definitely another blog post in here.)

While I initially began to feel a bit heart-broken with the thought, that changed when Paula made me think about independence. If children have their own space — be it a desk or a table, with or without a mat accompaniment — they can be independent in this space.

  1. They can select what materials to use here (and yes, with some individual collections of different materials).
  2. They can add to their space: making mini-worlds inside a desk and building underneath.
  3. They can choose when to eat, and clean up their area on their own. We even have individual sweepers for them, as nothing is more exciting for a kindergarten child then sweeping up the crumbs in their area.
  4. They can own their movement within the space: be it sitting on the chair to draw a picture, building on the floor underneath, or even walking around the desk or table space, as sometimes physical movement and/or wandering are necessary.

This independence does not necessarily mean supporting each other, as in the stapler example from this previous blog post of mine

… but it does mean taking care of their space and making some decisions for themselves. There’s a lot to be said for this. If kids are sharing a desk, accessing shared materials, or moving between spaces, there’s now a constant need to rely on an educator to disinfect items, to exchange materials, and to monitor movement. I have no doubt that all educators will be in an increased supervisory role this year, but along with additional desks and tables, maybe there’s also an opportunity here for extra independence. Something for me to smile about tonight. How do you plan on encouraging independence with your students this year? In the midst of a stressful time, a little reframe can go a long way.


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