- Tom Bedard
- Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
I am in the process of finalizing my presentation for the National Association of Young Children Annual Conference for the third week in November. Because it takes me a long time to finish an original post, I am looking over previous posts and will repost some that may have gotten less attention than others since I began writing over three years ago. This first repost speaks to what I think is the foundation of all that happens in the classroom. That foundation is building relationships. If we take the time to notice the children for who they are---not for what they do or can do---the relationship building process happens at a deep level because we---and especially children---are hardwired to look for and develop mutually respectful relationships.
I would like to explain the picture I chose for my profile. The picture does not speak directly to sand and water tables, but rather my view of children. That in turn, influences my practice which includes building apparatus for the sensory table.
This picture was taken in 2008 in a park in Los Banos, Peru. Los Banos is famous in Peru for the thermal baths used by the Incas and is next to the city of Cajamarca in the Northern Highlands of Peru. My daughter was living and working there at the time, so I went to visit her. My daughter worked for DiscoverHope, a non-profit organization that gives mircroloans to women. This particular day I had gone along with my daughter as she met with some of the women. As she was talking with one of the women in the park, I noticed the woman's two children playing. Before long, they were bringing me flowers.
What story does this picture tell?
It began when the children noticed that I was watching them. Children are always looking to make connections and form relationships. They reciprocated immediately. It was then my turn to reciprocate. (By the way, often times it works in reverse: a child will initiate and I will reciprocate.) Notice two things in the picture. First, I am down on their level. To truly understand a child's perspective, you have to be able to get down on her level. A colleague once related a story of a little girl who kept telling the teacher to look at the bunny in the snow. The teacher could not see it no matter how hard she looked. The child was insistent and finally the teacher got down on the child's level. It was only then she saw what the child saw: the snow had drifted into the shape of a rabbit. Second, we are focused on each other. Our actions are our shared language even without words. This is doubly true in this instance because my Spanish was only a few words more than their English, which was nonexistent. There was no script to our interactions, so we made it up as we went along. We were living in the moment: both sides initiating and responding; both sides reading each other's cues.
When I build an apparatus for the sensory table, I am using it as a provocation to begin a mutual dialogue with the children. For any given apparatus, there are no scripted directions to follow. Children bring their own set of abilities, interests and ideas to the table---literally. When those things are noticed and recognized in the context of our interaction, we build a respectful relationship in which we are learning from and teaching each other.
One last point about what the picture says to me. The act of giving flowers is an excellent metaphor for the beauty all children have to offer if we are primed to notice their cues, prepared to receive them, and ready to reciprocate in kind.
P.S. If you are going to the NAEYC national conference in Washington DC in November, I am presenting on sand and water tables. The session is on Saturday morning from 8:00-9:30, so we will see who are the early birds. Any readers of the blog who want to chat, I would love to find a time to meet. Please contact me through my email: email@example.com
Posted by Tom Bedard at 11/02/2013