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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, September 6, 2014

LISTENING, AGAIN

Last year at this time I wrote a couple of posts about the pedagogy of listening from a chapter by the same name by Carlina Rinaldi in the Reggio book The Hundred Languages of Children, Third Edition.  As I start the school year, I am revisiting both the posts and the book.   And since I am part of a book study group looking at this exact chapter in The Hundred Languages of Children, I am not alone in learning some of the nuances of listening in the pedagogy of listening.

In both posts last year, one on being a good listener and one on important aspects of listening,  I came away with a lot of questions about what does it really mean to listen.  When I look over those questions, they are still relevant and have not been answered yet.  I can summarize the questions thus: Who do I choose to listen to? Why do I choose to listen? When do I choose to listen? and How do I choose to listen?

One aspect of listening is more clear to me after much discussion and thought.  Namely, to listen, I have to be quiet myself.  I found an old video from the classroom that I think is a good example of me not listening.  Three children, all young three's, are at the water table and one of them has figured out how to make the water stop and go in a fountain apparatus.  Watch and listen :-)

Plugging the Fountain from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

There was really no reason for me to tell Finn to put his finger in the hole again because he was going to do it anyway.  Neither did I have to keep encouraging him to stop the water coming out of the fountain.  At one point Finn yells across the table to Caleb for him to put his finger in the hole. He does not really want Caleb to do it, but is announcing that he is going to do it, but he is using my words.  And again, I did not need to ask him if he could make it go again. I was not listening. I was trying to direct him when I really did not need to.  My voice in this video is just a distraction. If you take my voice out, one can really listen and observe what the children are doing.

In this particular video my encouragement and questions did not change the children's exploration. I can imagine, though, that my questions, narration and encouragement can affect the trajectory of the children's play and exploration.  Is that so bad?  I do not know, but my constant interjections may send a subtle message that I doubt some of the children's competencies.

In the classroom, why do I always feel like I need to ask a question or narrate or interpret or encourage?  There may be a time for that, but I am beginning to think that I need to be more quiet to truly be able to listen.


p.s. I recently came across a TED talk by Evelyn Glennie, a deaf percussionist from Scotland. She says her sole purpose in life is to teach people how to listen. She says to do that, we first need to listen to ourselves.  She goes on to say that we need to be resonating chambers. And that we must stop the judgements because they get in the way of our listening.  Listening is contextual, fluid and full of uncertainty.  (That sounds exactly like an early childhood classroom.)










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