Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Contagious" is a Good Word

I have been inspired by Kiran Bir Sethi this morning - a teacher in India who is "teaching kids life's most valuable lesson: "I can." Kiran firmly believes that children need to spread the "I Can Infection" through change and that "Contagious" is a good word. It is well worth watching her Ted Talk embedded below. Kiran simply believes in children and has set them the task of believing in themselves and setting about changing the world - starting in India:-) The projects that the children from Riverside School in Ahmedabad and other schools throughout India have achieved are incredible! On group of children decided "our parents are illiterate and we want to teach them how to read and write" - powerful changes were made by the children performing street plays to create awareness of the importance of being literate. Watching the children in action and hearing the parents reactions is truly heartwarming. As Tony Ryan wrote on his blog "If you’re into student-centred learning, you’re going to love this."

PS Watch out for the world's first child-friendly zebra crossing:-)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Are you Listening?"

Thanks to my colleague Tara Fagan, I have discovered this book written by Lisa Burman.

It has really made me stop and reflect on my practice as a teacher, a person and a mother! Am I truly listening when children talk to me? Sadly, the more I read the more I realise I need to really work on my listening skills! Isn't it funny that as a teacher we are often focusing on developing listening skills in children and I wonder if we are role modeling good listening skills ourselves. How many times when children are trying to engage us in conversations are we actually doing other things, thinking about other things or saying "hang on a minute..." In my role as an Early Years Facilitator for Core Education I have had the opportunity to delve deeper into this question with many teaching teams. As incredibly reflective practitioners we have all walked away with new ideas and strategies for truly listening to children.

When children are telling us their stories it is giving us an amazing opportunity to learn about their interests. It is also giving us an insight into the knowledge and experiences they have. By gaining this knowledge we are able to offer experiences to further inspire, motivate and challenge their thinking and learning. I have found these 5 tips (from Lisa Burman's book) to be very useful for teachers to reflect on their practice.

  • Pause and reflect on the ways you listen closely to children.
  • Pause and become more conscious of the questions you ask.
  • Pause and become aware of the time you give children to think before you continue the conversation.
  • Pause and become aware of how you might unintentionally lead children to your ideas instead of exploring their own schema.
  • Pause and become a more skilled teacher by reflecting on your role as a listener to young learners.

In my daily work with children and teachers (including my own children!) I will be focusing on truly listening and sharing the ideas and strategies that Lisa Burman gives us for fostering conversations that help young children learn.