Category Archives: connection

Interesting People

IMG_3114 copyI am visiting a child care setting and am lucky enough to be invited on a forest walk on a cold icy day.  Emma looks at me steadily “Where did you come from?” she asks. I answer that I am a visitor and will be coming weekly. She walks beside me and begins to talk:

“Do you want some ice? I found this for you.  Do you need a stick? You could have this stick. Do you want to make a hole in the ice? You pound a stick like this. Come with me, pound right here. I have another piece of ice for you.  Can I hold your hand?  Want to have lunch with us? I could give you some of my lunch.”

Emma stayed by my side for the rest of the walk, chatting easily. Milo joined us, took my other hand and solemnly declared that all animals and all people poo and pee. All of them. He described how he did a little dance when he had to pee but couldn’t get to a toilet, and we all laughed and did the ‘pee pee dance”. We continued to walk and talk and laugh until we arrived back at the school.

Sometimes in our writing, thinking, philosophizing, and planning I think we may forget that the best thing about being with kids is talking with them. Shooting the breeze. Just listening and chatting and laughing.

The fact is we adults spend a lot of time talking to kids, directing, instructing, cautioning, marshalling. We listen, but sometimes it’s a polite gesture, we smile and move on. On that walk I had the chance to have a long and interesting conversation, meandering through topics, getting to know two very interesting people.

I left that visit happy, and I smiled the rest of the day. I was blindsided by the kindness of two children I didn’t know who took me by the hand and welcomed me into their group.  They reminded about what is important; enjoying the company of interesting people.

Can We Talk?

“Our current educational systems ‘seem stuck in a time warp….displaying an unwillingness or inability to engage with either new thinking or the state we are in–and worse, the state we are heading towards”

Peter Moss,  Michael Fielding

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In her post A Tale of Two Wardrobes Danielle generated great dialogue by linking wardrobe choice and professionalism in the field of ECE. Lots of discussion ensued, people with strong opinions voiced their ideas and were countered by people with equally strong dissenting opinions. There was a lively debate that resulted in no clear answer but got us all thinking.

 This is exactly what we need more of in our field. We need more lively debate, and it needs to go beyond what we wear to work. We need to be discussing big ideas, and big questions about the field of early childhood care and education. We need to debate questions like: What are the values we hold about children and families? What is our idea of learning? What is the meaning of school? What education is for?  Who is responsible for education? Whose voices are heard and whose voices are silenced?

 In a society where test results and predefined outcomes dominate our educational systems, early childhood care settings often become sites for preparation for school readiness. Our role is often reduced to providing programming that will allow children to ‘practice’ for school.

 So rather than educational spaces being sites for adults and children to  explore new thinking and investigate new ideas together, educational spaces become standardized. Instead of being places where independent thinking and experimentation are valued, we have places with preplanned curriculum.

We need to debate and challenge and be challenged.

 We need to talk about this.

The Clay House

IMG_2236A grandfather sits on a child’s chair, his legs straddled comfortably so he can reach the child size table. He is working with the clay on the table, rolling it, patting and shaping it. He builds a small slab structure, makes a roof, adds details, texture. His grand daughter sits beside him working on her own clay creation. Mostly they are silent, but now and then they share a joke and a smile.

Every day this older gentleman comes to this drop in program. Every day he brings his two grandchildren, sits with them, talks with them, watches them. Occasionally he finds someone who speaks Cantonese who he can chat with, but mostly he remains silent, smiling.

His grandson, perhaps 18 months old, grins as he pushes a small chair around the room. The grandfather keeps an eye on him, but so do the others in the room. A mom offers a steadying hand when the chair begins to tip. The grandfather, still immersed in his clay building doesn’t notice.

The clay house is finished, and the grandfather places it in the centre of the table. I gesture with my camera, a photo? He nods, and I snap a couple of shots. I show him the photos on my camera and we both laugh with pleasure. Later a boy takes up a spray bottle and gently sprays the clay house, watching closely as the mist envelopes the house, making the clay glisten.

No words are spoken in any of these moments, they were unnecessary. The clay, camera, water, adults and children all came together, encountered one another, and spoke in many ways. Just not verbal ways.

 

An Empty Table

 

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An empty table. Not what we usually consider part of our morning set up in early years settings. We in ECE have the habit of setting out a lot of stuff. We spend our early morning getting out materials, arranging paint, glue, paper, putting the playdough out with some enticing tools. An empty table signifies a lack of planning, a lack of time, maybe a lack of interest. An empty table means we haven’t done our job.

But maybe the empty table needs to be reconsidered. Maybe an empty table is an invitation. Maybe an empty table opens up a space for us to listen.

Consider this:

I am visiting a drop in program for young children and caregivers. Most of the families come with some regularity and are familiar with the program and materials. On this morning an empty table sits at the back of the room. Eleven month old Cate goes over to it and pulls herself into a chair. She puts her hand on the table and begins moving her palm slowly in tiny circles. She sit there silently, just making tiny circles. The educator watches her, and then moves quickly to a shelf and brings out the clay. Cate and her caregiver settle down with it and Cate smiles as she moves her palm in circles in the clay.

The educator told me later that she knew Cate was asking for clay by the movement of her palm, that Cate often made this motion as she worked with clay.

A small piece of clay with the impression of a small palm and fingers
A small piece of clay with the impression of a small palm and fingers

 An empty table became a place for a small child to make a request, to be heard. This child knew she was a valued member of the drop in community whose interests would be respected and listened to, who could contribute to shaping the curriculum.

Listening means the capacity to respect others, to take

them out of anonymity, to give them visibility, enriching

both those who listen and those who produce the

message.

Carlina Rinaldi

Chanting and Banging and Shouting

IMG_1658 copySing along….you know the tune…..

 

A B C D E F G

Gummy bears are good to be

One is yellow, one is red,

One is blue and one is dead

A B C D E F G

Gummy bears are good to be

 

Not lyrics I’m familiar with but to the 4 girls I who were singing it was very familiar. They were sitting outside a coffee shop, swinging their legs and singing. And singing. They sang it about 10 times that I heard, continuing to sing as they walked so that their voices reverberated throughout the street.

I lingered in my walking so I could listen and it made me smile.  The song was silly to be sure, but there was great joy in the voices, I perceived the warmth of friendship, of sharing, of belting out a song communally.

As I walked away I thought about how children seem drawn to communal sound making, or as one sound artist put it, organized noise. How spontaneous chanting can erupt at a snack table, how a chorus of spoon banging can ignite in a second, how one happy shouted phrase can spark a cacophony of shouted phrases.

I thought about how we adults really don’t like the spoon banging and the shouting, how we are tolerant of the chants but usually only when we deem it appropriate.  I thought about how children seem to love the spoon banging and the shouting, that it seems to always be appropriate, no matter the time or the place.

I continued on my walk with the ABC refrain running through my mind, thinking I just might try joining in the chanting and banging and shouting next time. I might be missing out on something good.