Monday, October 8, 2012

To trust children, we must trust ourselves...

How many times have you found yourself saying to children - you can't do that! It is not safe!
Have you ever tried to think just a bit what is happening and could I guide the children to ensure that what they are doing is more safe? What is it that is unsafe?

I find so often as educators, myself included, we stop play that we feel is unsafe before giving ourselves a minute to think about how we could guide it just a bit to ensure that it is safe.

I was sitting on the floor observing some of the children building a bridge. They were experimenting with different sizes of blocks, different types of blocks, a variety of heights and widths. Without many words or direction, the children were thinking through many mathematical and scientific concepts.

They were inspired by some of the structure photographs that we have on the wall in our building area. We always try to ensure that there are pictures and books about different types of structures in this area for the children to draw on.

Eventually, they chose to create a lift bridge. They designed a long pathway of blocks that led up the lift bridge. They decided which blocks were better for the roadway (small area blocks) and which blocks were better for them to walk across (larger wooden blocks).

From afar, I noticed some of the adults in the room get nervous. I was close by and carefully observing the way that the children were building the bridge. We used rich language to discuss the stability and strength of their structure. When they thought it was stable and strong, they tested it out very carefully.

Within minutes, 10 children lined up on the roadway to take a turn crossing the bridge. They waited patiently and had interesting conversations with those in front and behind them. They encouraged their peers as they slowly crossed the bridge. Two boys held some of the friends hands that needed support to cross the bridge.

This building experience lasted nearly 45 minutes. If it wasn't time to go home, it may have continued longer! When I reflected on the way that the entire experience played out I was proud that I guided the children to ensure their play was safe, rather than telling them how to make it safe we worked together.

While revisiting documentation I realized how much of the Kindergarten curriculum was truly addressed in an unplanned, yet effective learning experience. I gathered authentic rich data about many of the children's gross motor skills, their ability to wait patiently in a line, their knowledge about structures and stability, their personal and social skills during their interactions.

Having a strong knowledge of the Kindergarten curriculum allows me not only to identify the expectations that are being addressed in play, but also to think of ways to extend their knowledge as I enter and guide play.

I am reading Reflecting Children's Lives by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter. It is an excellent text for the Kindergarten classroom. One section that reminded me of what happened in our room is entitled - "What child do you see?".

"When teachers believe that children are capable of learning, they will take the time to help children reach their full potential" (pg 84). This couldn't be MORE true. Our beliefs about children truly come through in our actions in the classroom, whether we like it or not.

They go on to discuss how the way that teachers respond to children in challenging moments is a reflection on our perception of them as well. If we truly believe that children are capable and competent we will treat them as such by responding to situations with patience and coaching.

I loved a chart that compared Negative View vs. Competent View (pg 84)

Negative View = children have no idea what safe is
Competent View = children are energetic explorers, tireless experimenters, dedicated scientists

What a simple positive way to see what could be portrayed as "negative".

It never ceases to amaze me when we simply trust children to inspire us, trust children to be safe, and trust children's intelligence. This text is INCREDIBLE, I will refer to it in future posts if you have the opportunity I would highly suggest it as reading material!


  1. I am finding your blog very inspirational! I am taking over an FDK classroom this week and feel that there is a lot to be done to truly make it a play and inquiry based classroom. This is my first experience as the teacher in FDK and reading about your experiences is inspiring me!! I will be revisiting your blog often for inspiration and encouragement. Thank you!

  2. Thank you so much for the kind words. It is truly a journey in teaching and reflection. My hope through my blog is to share with other educators the vulnerability that we have as teachers. It is definitely "ok" to make mistakes, in fact I truly believe that making mistakes is how we learn. The most important thing is that we are reflective and always opening our minds to thinking in new ways!

    Best of luck on your journey you sound like you are well on your way in learning! If I can help in any other way please contact me:

  3. Hi Tracy,

    Thanks for the book recommendation, I ordered Reflecting Children's Lives and I am loving it! I also love this post and couldn't agree more!

  4. Sarah - I am glad you like the text. It really is powerful and well written!