Engagement, Checking in with our Assumptions (version 2)
There are many ways to relate to children and adults. In education the focus is on “teaching” and many people have many working definitions of that word as well. Please take a minute to reflect and share your working definition below in the comments. My definition of teaching includes a relationship with another individual that wants to learn and is engaged in the process. I always tell the students I work with what my plan is and ask them if they are interested. Sometimes I invite them tell me what they want to do. That way when they are responding I know I have their attention and focus.
When children enter Kindergarten, the assumption is often made that they come to school to learn. Well, guess what, children have to come to school and their parents have to bring them. It’s the law. Unless you choose to home school and register for that process with the Department of Education.
Let’s check another assumption, “parents want to bring their children to school.” I am not sure that is always the case. I have witnessed many anxious parents clinging to their children the first day and month of school, and hear children crying and in “freeze” mode, where they refuse to talk or engage in the classroom activities.
We must check the assumptions we bring to education. We are all human beings, coming into each day with our own personal experiences and beliefs.
I no longer assume that children are at school to learn.
Please join me in considering the notion that we are diagnosing children with “learning disabilities, attention deficit and Autism Spectrum Disorder” because they are not engaged in the activities and learning the way we think they should.
The consideration of a child developments development it essential.
Is it fair to expect kindergarten students who are developmentally engaging at the level of a 1-2 year old, based on their previous experiences and opportunities, to perform as “typical” 5 year old children? What is “typical”! Is it fair to expect teachers to teach a room full of 25+ 5 year old children who have very varying needs, from learning English Language for the first time, to how to navigate through the world without their parent for the first time and how to interact, sit and listen for long periods when they have not been asked to before.
Children who get up and walk out the door, trying to get back home to their caregivers are our teachers.
I use this example because it is a real experience I have witnessed recently. By “listening” and “engaging” with the child we can learn more about what is going on for them. We also have an opportunity to engage with parents and caregivers of a child who is not engaged at school. We can find out what is going on for the family.
Often it seems like teaching is telling. The definition of “teaching” is to “impart knowledge or skill.” "Learning” is to “acquire knowledge or skill”. A question to consider is do students learn more efficiently when they are active or passive? Do we need to impart knowledge or skill or do we need to support them in finding information, developing skills and solving problems. Our students are being asked to “conform” and “perform”. They are becoming passive learners. Teachers are being charged to do something that is not healthy… are we causing more toxic stress for our children. What does it feel like when you are forced to go to a professional development session that you are not interested in? I have seen teachers doze off! - I may have even done so myself.
I invite you to consider the following solutions:
1. How can you connect with each child in your classroom at the beginning, middle and end of each day. You may need to let go of some teaching… but it will be worth it.
2. How can you form small groups throughout the day so students can build relationships and talk with other children?
3. When a student is having challenges engaging in coming to school, how can you involve the family to help with the transition? How can you find a trusting adult to support that student in the transition?
4. Before “evaluating” a child, try all of the above solutions and learn more about the child’s experiences “learning” at home and in the community, and understand their developmental experiences. Calling a child “low” is judging them. We need to understand and engage with them.
Learning can be an active process, engaging people in activities with others where they have new experiences. Children can figure things out when they are connected, regulated and engaged and feel supported.
Feel free to join this discussion on my Facebook page or to make comments on my blog.
Let’s co-create change in education by relating and engaging with our students! If you would like support in changing your practices, coaching services are available.