Listening to kids is part of the job. Understanding the multiple layers of what they’re saying is an art! It really helps to either have background knowledge in child development, years of experience or good old fashioned intuition. And all three gives us a fighting chance not to fall in the trap of good parent (teacher) bad parent (teacher). We’ve all been there and that’s not a disgrace, but a saving grace is that we can learn from the experiences and move on. How many times has a child asked us for something after the response from another adult was not what they sought? And how many times do we want to step in, before necessary?
Many anecdotal stories whirl around in my brain, from, he said I could finish this before I clean up, to she said, it’s my turn for the jump rope (all in the name of I’m not ready to move on). The hurts, the tears, the anger, the joy, we’ve learned not to jump to conclusions, but watch, listen and learn. I will probably explore this topic in more post but for now I share an off-shoot of this topic.
So here I sit ready to share an experience I recently had with a kindergarten child. When going over the schedule the kinders excitedly remarked what part of the day peeked their interest and they couldn’t wait till that time. Later in the day they had a discussion about completing class work in order to have a bigger chunk of Choice Time. A little boy looked at me and remarked, “Oh I don’t care about Choice Time.” I looked at him a bit surprised thinking of all the possibilities for his comment. Instead of assuming any of them I asked why he felt that way? His response shook me to the core of the importance of Choice/Voice in our students’ learning. He said, “I don’t like Choice Time, I like to learn. I like Learning Time.” I’m not sure what my response would have been years ago, but today and now after connecting with so many incredible people through Twitter, I have truly embraced not only the value of play as a tool for learning (which I have held steadfast to in all my years as an educator), but also the idea of geniushour and project based learning as vehicles of Choice Time and self-directed learning. Luckily the student seemed eager to engage me in conversation when I said to him, “But Choice Time is learning time. You get to choose what you want to learn!” He looked at me with sheer amazement. I continued, “Whether you build with friends, read books, do art or spend time by yourself, you’re choosing what you want to do. You’re choosing what you want to learn.” He looked at me, not certain if that was so and said, “Really?” I smiled and nodded my head. (An aside: he really relished his Choice Time activity.) And then I came home and reflected for a few days on my interaction and discussion with this delightful kinder who earnestly explained why he didn’t like Choice Time.
In the years I had #geniushour in our kinder class, and the kinders questions on our Wonder Wall, I was so encouraged by the brave stance of my students. The choices they made had the ups and downs as in all learning, but their self-confidence, I hope, was fortified by the knowledge that mistakes were ok and trying was the road to discovery and learning. Not to stand on my soap box (maybe too late for this post), if we don’t initiate Choice Time in our young children how will they become the students who understand that their ideas and interests are valued, they matter and then the “go for it” is lost.
How do you help your students design their own learning? Has geniushour or PBL been helpful and/or successful?