David Hawkins, director of the Mountain View Center for Environmental Education, discusses the role of Teacher as learner.  “Good teaching requires the teacher’s own involvement in learning, ” he maintains.

Read the interview and let me know what you think?  David and Frances Hawkins were instrumental in young children’s learning connected to environment.


According to Katz and Chard (1998)  in recent years many teachers of young children have taken a hands- off approach to skill building because they confuse systematic instruction ( teaching individual children a progression of skills that contribute to greater proficiency) with direct instruction (teaching the same skills at the same time in the same way to a whole class).  Wanting to provide developmentally appropriate environments, teachers often shy away from any instruction and fail to give children instruction in basic skills they need to get through the day.

How can we use this research to better understand our job and children’s learning?  Remembering how important conversation is to cognitive development, how can you utilize conversation as a tool to offer instructions to young children?

Seymour Papert - Grafik

Seymour Papert  (Wikipedia)

“I think it’s an exaggeration, but there’s a lot of truth in saying that when you go to school, the trauma is that you must stop learning and you must now accept being taught.”

 Seymour Papert

That may the state of things in many schools.  Do we have a choice?  Do we want young children to learn or  do we believe  that teacher’s hold the knowledge and will dole it out when the time is right?  How does our language reflect what we believe?  Do we continue to refer to “our” classrooms as  “Miss Mary’s Room” or  “Mr. Brown’s Room” ?  Does this imply ownership?  Would changing the name send a different message to children, to parents, and to co workers?  Consider what would happen if you changed the name to reflect the space or that  the children were involved in the naming process.

Working in a Reggio Inspired School, we tackled this issue a few years ago.  We wanted to move from teacher’s ownership of the classroom to a classroom that had many inhabitants; children, teachers, parents, and even pets.  After talking among ourselves, teachers talked with the children.  Together they launched a study of names.  They talked about their names; why they had them, why they were named that particular name, and why names were important.  They talked about areas in the school that already had names: Library, Bookstore, Welcome Center, and the Lodge.  They discovered that often the names reflected the context of the space. Together children and educators named the classrooms and worked to make the names visible to the school community.  Today we have classrooms with names like “Sunshine Room” “The Window Room” and “The Friendship Room.”  The rooms will continue to hold onto the names in an effort to support children’s sense of belonging to a school community. The older children will know that the next year they may be in “The Mosaic Room” and will be able to help the younger children use the name signs as navigational tools as they find classrooms new to them.

While this example doesn’t address the big spirit of the quote-it does speak to the children’s active learning as they investigated names and to the shift in the teacher’s attitude as they recognized children as the strongest voice in the process. Teachers moved from “teaching” to learning along side the children. What small step could you take to support children’s learning and move from being “taught”? Do you have something to share that could help others?

Benjamin Lee Whorf

Benjamin Lee Whorf ( Wikipedia)

Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.
Benjamin Lee Whorf

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we talk to each other as educators.  What effect does that have on children’s learning?  When we make a choice to call our time together  “Collaboration ” instead of “staff meeting” does that elevate the subject matter to focus on children’s work instead of  house keeping type topics?  When we call each other “educators” in addition to “teachers” does that imply a different attitude? When we talk about our projections, intentions, and provocations instead of “plans” do we instill a sense of professionalism and a move away from didactic methods? By choosing certain words does it shape the way we think? Some might think we’re just putting on airs but I feel that we are trying to find strategies that support a new way of thinking about children and about our work together.  What do you think?

Sir Ken Robinson: The Element | Aspen Ideas Festival.

Incredible video of his talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival.  It’s a long video but well worth the time. After you watch the video, you may want to read the book!  Also, a peek at The Blue School at the end of the video.

Recently, several co workers and I attended the NAREA Summer Conference in Portland.  During the conference, a co worker attended a session that focused on movement.  This is a woman who runs 5 miles every day, attends cardio blast several times a week, and is constantly moving. She knows she loves movement, yet in the classroom she was using movement as a management tool- not movement for the love of moving.  She and her co teacher have decided to embrace movement in the classroom.  They plan to use this next year to research “In which ways do children use movement.”  It will require a shift in their thinking about movement, a shift in the language they use surrounding movement, and  open minds to possibilities.  Maybe by embracing her element, she will help others find theirs.   Is teaching your passion?  Do you have another?  Is your passion a part of your teaching?

Federica Parretti and Peter Byworth
NAREA Summer Conference 2012

“One of the essential attributes of a good teacher — from preschool through graduate school — is the disposition to respect learners,” observes Lilian Katz in her book, Intellectual Emergencies: Some Reflections on Mothering and Teaching.  She explains…

“I suggest that to respect the learner means, among other things, attributing to the learner positive qualities, intentions, and expectations, even when the available evidence may cast doubts on the learner’s possession of these attributes.  A respectful relationship between the teacher and the learner is marked also by treating learners with dignity, listening closely and attentively to what the learners say, as well as looking for what they seem reluctant to say.  Respect also includes treating the learners as sensible persons, even though that assumption sometimes requires a stretch of the teacher’s imagination.  When it comes to young children this element of respect implies that we should resist the temptation to talk to young children in silly sweet voices, heaping empty praise on them, and giving them certificates indicating that smiling bear believes they are special.  This disrespectful strategy makes a mockery of teaching.  After all, teaching is about helping learners to make better, deeper, and fuller sense of their experience and to derive deep satisfaction from the processes of doing so.  Education, after all, is not about amusement, excitement, or entertainment.”

In an article by Linda Doherty she states, “Teachers talk too quickly and bombard students with excess words, leaving them struggling in a “sea of blah” and possibly contributing to unnecessary referrals for behavioral disorders.”  She goes on to recount that the auditory testing of 10,000 children showed that 30% from age 4.7  years to 6.0 years could not accurately process sentences longer than 9 words.  Ken Rowe, the research director for the Australian Council for Educational Research, said the children did not have hearing problems but were bamboozled by rapid fire, lengthy instructions from teachers.  Consider that these were children who are on the older side of preschool.

Think about how difficult it is to process a phone number that someone leaves you when they speak too quickly.  Now imagine that you are the young child and that is happening over and over during the time at school! Too much information going through the auditory gate is garbled. It’s easy to see how this could lead to behavioral problems.  It’s possible that the child becomes frustrated, confused,  and tired trying to process the rapid fire information.

Try slowing down and using clear concise language.  Pay attention to the change, do you notice a difference in the children? Do you notice a difference in how you feel?