A Thought, An Idea, A Suggestion

It’s rare that I write a post so soon after publishing one a few days before, but this has been on my mind, so I thought I’d share my thinking as I process my ideas and reflections. So I ponder…

I have been so fortunate in subbing at the school I have taught at for over 39 years! I had spent the last 25 of those years teaching kindergarten and the first 14 years in early childhood classrooms with toddlers, 3s and 4s. Over time there have been many changes, some in hindsight are wonderful and allow space for the divergent thinkers, learners (students and teachers) and some I continue to question. But as most situations in life there is a continuum and the pendulum that swings. Philosophical, pedagogical and pragmatic outlooks influence what happens in the classroom. Where these programs will take us, continues to unfold. When teacher autonomy is valued then, in my opinion, the relationships between student and teacher hold the reins for appropriate practices.

My role as a sub is to support the teachers, the students and the curriculum. I am comfortable with this and also feel that my observations and questions have been welcomed. I continue to learn from these incredible educators who participate in Professional Development opportunities to grow in their own practices.

So my first “ponder”: “How do we make suggestions when a aha-ha moment occurs as you watch a teacher lead a group? How do you look back at your own teaching and how you implemented changes after being observed and then the follow up discussion about your work?” I think about those questions before I jump in. I think about the relationship I have with that teacher. I think about how I felt when a question looked like a criticism and a failure, a mistake in my teaching practices.

But I am bold and I am brave! I observed a few group times that involved the children sharing their “treasure” from home. In kinder they have put it under a “Dialogue Share” framework. Those kinders who have brought in their share object have an opportunity to talk about it.  Then the class can ask questions; usually up to three children ask questions. (Over the years share has evolved and had had many iterations in the kindergarten classroom. I like what I see now in the kinder class. I find it manageable and meaningful.) It reminds me of the “Comments and Compliments” group time I have observed in 2nd Grade at the end of the day. I think these are out of Responsive Classroom activities. (A new focus introduced before I retired and now in practice in the kinder class as well.) As I listened to the children share in an early childhood classroom I noticed that all questions centered around “What’s your favorite: color, car, toy” and so on.  I wondered if this was a developmental process of asking questions or could the children get passed the “favorite” question? After watching this for a few days, I raised my hand for a turn and asked a different question, which the child could confidently answer. When it was another child’s turn to ask a questuon, once again it was about the “favorite.” This time I asked the teacher if I could suggest different ways to ask questions. If we could frame it with a Who, When, Why, How, Where and What (with another way to use what) questions since they have done a great job with the What is your favorite! She liked that idea and when it was another child’s turn, guess what, you’re right, they went right back to “What is your favorite”!! The teachers smiled but we were not discouraged. The teacher leading the group added her own twist (knowing this group of children much better than I do) and as soon as she called on another child she gave them a prompt, suggesting they start with Who, Where, How, When and Why question. It worked and the children were delighted in the answers and curious to see what other questions they could ask! And that was my second “ponder”; how to help fascilitate a more engaging “share” experience.

Later in the day the teacher and I discussed how share time went. We have a good relationship and have been colleagues at the same school for some years. We talked about my suggestions (and I hoped I had not overstepped) as I reinforced how much I valued her idea of prompts that would help her students move away from their “go to question.” I can’t wait for the next share time.

Once again another day when I see how “it takes a village!”

My two ponders for this post as I am big proponent in sharing ideas. When ideas hit you how do you feel about sharing  them with colleagues? Which leads me to this: I am curious about share time and how it’s implemented for the various age groups and grades you teach?

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