I have been on this journey into play for three years now. Each year goes from strength to strength and my 'approach' to teaching continues to improve...why, what is it that keeps it going and getting stronger?
There's no hugely mystical reason, basically I have chosen to channel each and everything I do through the eyes of the child. Because I have never really grown up, I find this quite easy 😊. The other thing that makes it incredibly easy is that I know my children, I spend a lot of time talking to them, play-based learning makes that possible. No longer am I rushing from reading group to reading group, madly trying to rush them through a timetable that they have no ownership over. Now I can sit down at a table and talk to them about their interests, pose questions and wonderings and listen to the conversation take a direction that I never expected.
My current concern is that so many classrooms are governed by the eyes of an adult. Environments are designed beautifully, but they are beautiful from an adults perspective.
Topics of learning are selected by adults, in some circumstances, adults that are not even present in that classroom, just making decisions based purely on their 'coverage' requirements. In other situations, topics that go right across the whole school, because that is 'what we are doing this year.'
How learning is delivered is decided on by adults, with very little thought given to the children.
Play-based learning and Number Agents have given me an absolute gift. A gift I have been very privileged to pass on to many teachers now. This gift, is the ability to stop, to listen, to discover and be able to see learning through the eyes of the children in my class. Have I perfected this lens, absolutely not, but I am working on it.
This child lens has allowed me to make changes to everything I do, from reading, to writing and of course in maths...but much, much more. It has changed me as a teacher and also as a principal.
Through this child lens I have learned to stop and just go with the sense of wonder that children have about the world around them...this has led to a much more dynamic and authentic framework for learning. In fact, we cover so much more of the curriculum than ever before, in much more authentic ways.
I worry that too many in our profession still place so much emphasis on pre-planning...spending hours on end detailing achievement objectives and learning outcomes, but not giving a thought to what the children might like to do. Or they give a cursory thought to the children by asking them what 'topics' they would like to cover. Yes this might get to the interests they have, but hey, just like us, they don't know, what they don't know...until they are curious enough to want to find out.
I worry when people talk about spending hours each night on planning, in my opinion this is wasted time. My mind is busy during the day, when I am working with my children, but I would only spend half an hour planning each week....if that.
It worries that in many schools plans have been used years on end. I can't even imagine regurgitating a plan more than once, and I can not at all see the usefulness of delivering the plan another teacher has created for their class. Don't get me wrong, I plan, I know some basic endpoints that I would like to get to, a lot of these are based on dispositions, rather than knowledge, and I draw on Te Whariki much more than ever before when thinking about my teaching. Most of my planning is on the spot and in the moment, and a lot of it, even though they don't know it, is done by the children. It is seamless and evolving, most of all it is engaging and very real.
I also worry that many in our profession gravitate to programmes, because they want to get it 'just right' for their kids. Many of these programmes are delivered from books, or presented in worksheet form...now in my opinion in these cases we are not using our child lens at all, but once again our 'coverage' and 'we have to do it this way' lens. If these programmes are used for ideas, or starting points, but then shaped by your understanding of the children in front of you and innovated upon accordingly, then that is a different story. That's why I love Number Agents so much, it is a philosophy, an approach...but it will never every prescribe how to teach or what materials you may use. In fact many people have read my book now, but all have made the approach fit them and delivered it in their own way, for their own children. It should inspire and ignite ideas, not prescribe the way you do things.
It also worries me that when asked, teachers talk about how much new entrants and juniors in general love routine, they love timetables, they love to know what to expect...don't get me wrong, my classroom is not anarchy (although at some points in time it can seem like organised chaos) it is absolutely based on rituals and structures that they understand. I think even the youngest of children, while they like to feel secure, safe and to belong, also like to be able to explore learning, interests and urges outside of the rigidness of a timetable that is governed by an adult, to feel like they are in control, just like us.
I would actually say that most children are people pleasers and sit well within a routine and timetable because it pleases us and this makes them happy.
There is a difference between setting rigid routines and having expectations. We have high expectations (developmentally appropriate) that are based around kindness and respect, our play-based environment allows us to actively model and coach dispositions that reflect these expectations. It worries me that the advise we give to many new teachers is to be 'tough' in those first few weeks of the year, when in essence what they really need to be doing is taking time to form attachments with 'their children' it is these relationships that will make management easier later on.
Now don't get me wrong, I know that some children need to work within more structure than others because of behavioural needs and developmental needs, however I do believe that by working on relationships and slowly releasing the structure over time, these children too will be able to follow their own interests and urges in their own good time.
When I talk of children in this post, I don't mean just juniors, I mean all children, even those at intermediate and high school...if we are to look at what and how we are teaching through their eyes, we will then be able to engage in practice that best suits them.
I have yet to meet a child of any age that wants to do science from a work book or copy mathematical rules from a whiteboard.
- Learning Through Play
- The Villains and The Heroes
- What I love about Number Agents!
- My PDF Products - Available on TPT or Teachers Helping Teachers
- Teachers Pay Teachers Store
- How to order
- Number Agents in a Nutshell
- What is in the book?
- Children and Numbers - My Belief
- Mantle of the Expert
- My number goals
- My learning dispositions and habits
- My Youtube channel
- My Brain Model
- My Sentiments