I remember around six or seven years ago reading a tweet about “looking closely” and researched books that were mentioned . Our kinder team liked the idea and since we were doing a unit on the Rainforest it seemed a good time to introduce the book and the concept. We were excited and we bought a few books in the series. Although I had known about the Reggio Emilia approach I found more and more information on these programs. After some time, I saw some tweets and blogs about ”provocations”and I was intrigued by the term; being more familiar with the term “provoke” On twitter I learned how a provocation was a positive, opened-ended, student-centered discovery to engage children in their learning. Then “provoke” took on new meaning for me; to prod children through environmental and other opportunities to discover, to push, to try to make sense of their world. I liked that, it sat well with me.
I met @avivaloca Aviva Dunsiger on Twitter and her blogs had me thinking: prodding me to look closely and differently at the provocations she set up for her classroom. Then also on Twitter, I met Mary Wade @mary_teaching and her blog where she also used provocations to push my thinking. I saw #ReggioPLC and was intrigued. Here I met @DianeKashin1 Diane Kashin) who introduced me to “Forest Schools” and their approach to learning.
As I look back at my years of teaching, I often think about what my motivations and goals were; not only for my students, but for myself as well. Was happiness, joy, the inquisitiveness, the love of learning, the wonder of it all, a big part of what my classroom looked like. Certainly in my years in the early childhood program, it did! Kinder initially was like that as well and then a shift to a more “academic” program where we often teetered between academics and a child-centered, developmentally appropriate program. But then we looked closely, reminding us that’s how kinders really learn.
I reflect and share here, because as I sub, I still try to make sense of what we’re doing as educators. That pendulum swings and I see educators are taking a closer look at what’s “right” for students, especially in lower elementary. It’s in the mindset, isn’t it. We can make changes. If we want to give kids’ agency, then we have to take it for ourselves as well.
Do you use provocations in your program? Is there flexibility to teach with a more open lens of ideas that fascinate you and are eager to “give it a go?” Have you discovered a way to integrate student-initiated learning with the acaemdics you’re mandated to teach?