Teachers and Children Learning Together Part 1

The Discussion that Followed:
The teachers noted some of the difficulties in the process. Taking such specific observation notes is not necessarily an intuitive process. Traci said, “It was hard. You had to consciously think about observing and just take the time to do it…it’s hard to get everything down on paper.” Jason agreed, “Written observations are hardest … I think using a tape recorder would be better.”

Furthermore, just getting the time to do their 10-minute observations was no easy task. As Amy said, “Circumstances of the day allowed me to sit down…but this week, I had to come in on my day off. I was just too busy.” This first experience made several of the teachers feel that they would like to explore different methods of observation. Most of the teachers found it difficult to find the time to take 10 minutes at one’s own discretion. They would end up overlapping by trying to seize the moment causing disequalibrium in the balance of the day. We decided that observations might run more smoothly if we scheduled them, knowing even then that making time to do this conscious, focused study takes a time commitment.

The benefits of our persistence were clear. Amy felt that her undisturbed focus enabled her to see so much more than the typical overview/reflection on a given child’s day. Jenn noticed that a strong curriculum theme was emerging in her observations of Abraham and his use of the word ‘Stabilizer’…”It was really good for me because I struggle with curriculum and finding things to do.” The act of observing and dialoguing enabled teachers to develop an individual and shared awareness and a sense of connectedness with the child and with each other. By observing, we attended and listened to the children and to ourselves.

The act of observing offered a medium that allowed teachers to understand the children in a way that was personal. In turn, as Mara Krechevsky and Ben Mardel say this type of experience “…allows teachers to deepen their understanding of children’s strengths and interests, different languages or domains of knowledge, their own actions and pedagogical decisions, and the processes of learning” (289).

The individual recording styles each conveyed documentation that proved engaging on a story level and on an interpersonal one. Each teacher surmised key elements honing in on what each understood as important. The simple process of naming one’s work gave the teacher permission to both own one’s interpretation of the child’s perspective and share it with the group without fear of losing one’s voice in the crowd.

An attitude of independence and interdependence pervaded the room. Finding an overall name for each series connected observations together, offering a unified and integrative perspective on the child, one that brought teachers together in true collaboration. Once we shared our observations and named the thread of our work we became a ‘we’ and not merely a group of ‘I’s’. I think it would be true to say that by participating in the observation dialogue, we had the feeling of rising above the burdensome manner of isolation of the normal school day pattern to a more reciprocal place of negotiation and meaning-making.