Friday, October 03, 2014

Something New To Add To The System

I really like working in the classroom with the parents of my students. They teach me as much as the kids.

"It's pink."

I worry sometimes that I'll somehow become calcified over time. When I first started teaching 14 years ago, I joked to parents, the owners of our school, "Shape me now, because before long I'll think I know everything." I've long been trying to somehow inoculate myself against it, by thinking about it from the very start.

"I'm doing some pumpkin."

I'm so enjoying my workmates these first few weeks of school, looking forward to seeing them almost as much as the children. Perhaps most of all, I appreciate how they help me de-calcify. 

"Dinosaur. It's a meat eater."

Honestly, I do think I know the best way to do things. Ask my wife. I'm either really good at, or annoying about, "systems." That's right: systems. Around the house, I've "engineered" all our shopping, cooking, laundry, and for what they're worth, cleaning systems, which function for us -- at least I have no complaints, perhaps because I take responsibility for making the systems work. I tend to do the same thing around the school, creating systems, which is mostly a good thing, but does also trend over time in the direction of calcification. 

"Just all green."

"Just all green again."

Parents decalcify me by making me realize ways to improve the "system," usually through their own enthusiasm for working with the kids.


For instance, I think I know everything about how an art station should work, but last week a parent, on her own initiative, took the time to record what some of the three-year-olds had to say about their watercolor paintings. It's not the first time that's happened, of course, I've often discovered notes scribbled across the bottom of artwork, especially when a child really goes deep, but we've never made it a regular part of what we do. And why not? I have an "art parent" there every day escorting the kids through their processes. How hard would it be to just ask them to jot down any pertinent quotes from the kids about their thoughts or intentions or process or discoveries? Something new to add to the system.

"So many colors."

As a teacher, these meager snippets provide insight into intention, inquiry, and process. As a parent, I imagine these words leading to conversations about a child's day. What does "bloss" mean? Where did all those colors go? Who are is you?

"That's you!"

Yes, the kids keep it fresh, but so do the parents, maybe because it's all just as new to them, and in turn they keep me from calcifying in my systems, which is a perfect inoculation against calcification. Just another reason I love working in a cooperative.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And even better document the story of the painting /drawing as it is being created which often changes through the course of time. I've noticed recently how valuable it is to listen to children as they create. By the time the product is completed, much of this story has been lost forever. Precious memories and insights into our children's thoughts and imaginations.