Be careful what you teach

DSCF2347 copyA four year old child says to a teacher: “Whenever I taste my sock, it always tastes like coffee.”

How to respond?  There are voices in our head… voices that say: germs….gross….wet soggy socks… ….ugh…. unsanitary….we must make sure this child stops tasting socks…that is our job…..

A colleague shared this moment with us, and heard all those voices in her head. But instead of voicing these responses, she paused. She thought about what the child might be thinking, she thought about respecting the research, she thought about listening more and talking less.

And then she asked: “Always?”

The child answered: “Yes, always.”

Isn’t that a beautiful response?

(Kinda makes you want to taste your socks, doesn’t it?)

“Be careful what you teach. It might interfere with what they are learning.”  – Magda Gerber.


The Art of Human Learning

WP_20141003_022 copyIn Reggio Emilio schools are built with a central piazza, an open space from which all other rooms flow. Piazza’s are more than simply an architectural idea, they are integral to the philosophy of Reggio where values of democracy, reciprocity and sociality are of utmost importance. Ceppi and Zini put it this way:

“The piazza is a place of meeting, a public place of the school which plays the same role in the school building as the piazza does in town…..the piazza supports the formation of relationships, symbolizing the “pedagogy of relationships” in the sense that it fosters encounters, group interaction, stories, social relations and the children’s assumption of a public identity.”  (Children, Spaces, Relations, a metaproject for an environment for young children, Ceppi, Zini, 1998)

The idea of creating spaces to generate relationships and dialogue among adults, children, teachers and the broader community is an uncommon idea where I live.  Opportunities for  discussing the important questions of listening to what  children know, articulating, contesting and discussing education are sadly missing …..until now! A collective of educators in Terrace have created such a space with The Art of Human Learning now showing at the Terrace Art Gallery.

With the guiding statement Young children use the arts in their everyday life as their language families, educators, and the broader community were asked to submit stories and art to be showcased at the art gallery. The submissions were then professionally curated resulting in an exhibition that provokes new ways of thinking about children, art, human learning and expression.

The exhibit showcases photography, sculpture, found object installations, provocative quotes  and stories of children and adults, ranging from the disturbing to the whimsical, all  challenging the viewer to think about creativity, education, learning and the values we as a society hold.

A blue adirondack chair inscribed with poetry invites  readers to reconceptualize our relationship with nature.

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A large branch encased in canvas created by children who are thinking about life and death, growth and nurturing.

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A gorgeously thick painting rich with texture draws the viewer to linger.

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The Art of Human Learning is a remarkable accomplishment, doing what is so rarely done but so sorely needed…..sparking conversations about art, children, education, care and expressive languages.

Go see it. And then keep talking about it……these conversations are important.





Taking Action with Green Tomatoes

The central ethical and political question now becomes: ‘how do we live
together with human and non-human others?’
(Taylor & Guingi 2012)


“I think we should make a trap…..yeah we can trap them with green tomatoes, that will make them sick! Then they won’t be able to work!”


This sinister sounding plan came from two boys as they watched city workers radically prune 15 feet off the trees in the park just outside the play yard fence. The boys were disturbed at the sight of the trees being so damaged, and devised this plan to lure the workers to eat green tomatoes, theorizing that the tomatoes would make the workers too sick to continue. Deviously brilliant!

On my visits to the centre I have observed these children on many walks through this park and have repeatedly been surprised and impressed by the attentive care they have shown to creatures and plants.

IMG_4366 copyThey gently hold slugs within a flower

IMG_4093 copyUse fallen leaves  and gravel to create small works of art

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Beautifully arrange flowers for passsersby


Build homes out of grass and sticks to protect a wounded bee they found in the grass

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And taste frost.

The educator at this centre makes these walks a regular part of her program, and is attentive to what children notice, the stories they imagine, the naming of places, particular trees, a pile of rocks. She doesn’t impart much ‘scientific knowledge’, rather she asks and listens to the knowledges the children bring. She and I have discussed at length the compassion children show to the creatures, the curiosity to know them. In our ‘teacher role’ we sometimes assume our job is to teach the names of plants, the habits of hibernation or how slugs travel, and these are certainly interesting things to know. But in our rush to teach, we miss what children know. And knowing that a bee will climb on bark if you gently guide it is pretty impressive knowledge. Knowing how to carry a slug, naming it, spending time simply being with it, is another kind of important knowledge. Creating beautiful arrangements of flowers, tasting frost, piling rocks artfully, all these are ways of knowing as well.

This kind of knowing builds compassion, creates a relationship, a kinship. So when the trees are threatened the children are willing to take action. Isn’t this kind of awareness, of responsibility to all ‘human and non-human others’ just what we need?


I matter to a healthy economy

My Dilemma

I matter to a healthy economy

She sits across from me with the biggest smile on her face.

“Danielle” She says “We would like to offer you a promotion.”

“Really?” I ask.

“Yes” with a huge grin she goes on to describe what the promotion entails. A wage increase, increased hours, more responsibility, more autonomy, and benefits.

“We understand childcare may be an issue, so you can do some of the admin work from home.”

“Wow” I either say or think. I am certain I said thank you but I can’t be sure. I was in a bit of shock.

I want to tell you I was bursting with joy and excitement. I want to tell you I jumped up and said “Thank you, I’ll take it!” I want to tell you that but I can’t. What I was thinking at that exact moment was “can I afford to take this opportunity.” The organization thought of the childcare issue but I know my track record of being able to work from home with a three, soon to be four year old running around the house. Blog posts, admin, feedback that I used to be so good at getting done in a timely matter has taken a back seat to snuggles, walks, playing, cleaning and the constant feeding a growing preschooler needs. I know that if I do choose to take this opportunity, I will need child care. Child care costs money. So the numbers start rolling around in my head.

The meeting is over. She asks me to let her know by the following Friday if I will take it.

I go home and I look at the numbers and the reality of the situation is this. Even with an increase in hours and wages my monthly income will be greatly reduced by taking this position. The cost of childcare will take up what extra income I could be bringing home and then some. Based on finances taking this promotion will hurt my family.

How can this be okay? How can we live in a time or place where this is our reality. I love my job, I love what I do, I so desperately want to take this promotion and be happy.

Last year during elections we heard the slogan families first. We heard our premier talk about growing a healthy economy. There was an early year’s strategy, which was fantastic and welcome news. New childcare spaces would be created. I don’t feel like families are first. It’s all well and good to create more childcare spaces but if you can’t afford those spaces what are our options. Doesn’t my contribution to the economy matter?

I can’t sit here and take this reality. Can you? So on July 12th I will be joining the stroller brigade for the $10 a day Childcare. I would invite you to join me. Affordable childcare is part of a healthy economy. More importantly I am part of healthy economy.

Side note: I took the promotion. Fairfield Gonzales Community Association and Kristina please know I felt so valued and so honoured by this opportunity. I may have been fretting about numbers but I was elated.Thank you!

save the elc

They Listened…..

save the elc We wrote letters, signed petitions, dropped off letters from the children and families, spoke to the media, tweeted, shared information via social media and educated the community about the importance of a high quality education for the educators who work with our youngest citizens and they listened.

Monday evening the board of governors at Camosun College voted not to cut the ELC program.

I don’t know about you but I feel like we can change the world now! So what shall we do next?