We spent a few weeks examining our hidden curriculum so that we can shift our practices and allow even incidental moments to be informed by our highest values and our best thinking. Each week, a different group of eight teachers came together and read an excerpt from the first part of Parker Palmer's brilliant essay "The Heart of a Teacher".
Here is a little of the wisdom teachers and staff shared in reaction to this piece:
Katy: When something doesn't go well, we pick it apart, "Why is it hard?" When something is going well, we rarely reflect on it and think "What did we do well?" so we can remember that. This is true in supervising staff as well.
Sarah: I really resonated with the second paragraph. It took me a long time to realize that everyone who is a teacher feels stupid or worthless or that they're not good at their job sometimes. Sticking with the cycle long enough, I've gotten to more self-compassionate practice. I'm a flawed person and I'm a good teacher.
This week, we considered transitions, which make up a big part of our day, by watching teachers and children transition together.
We started with a ten second video by way of introduction. Sara, a toddler teacher, walks with three children to a play yard. Afterwards, I asked the group "What are these children learning in this moment?"
- to stay together (They are all holding hands.)
- that the destination is exciting ("Here we are! Yay!")
- there are many ways to get there (for example, waddling like a penguin)
- learning about Sara as a teacher, her sense of humor... if I were with her I'd feel safe
- they know to hold hands, they know they can leave their room together and get somewhere fun together
These are the kinds of things that all children are learning when we don't realize that we are teaching. Sara is a master teacher and she was teaching these children as she skipped and celebrated with them in this tiny moment. I believe that the more that we watch each other and ourselves teach, the more we practice paying attention, the less our curriculum is hidden and the more children are learning the kinds of things we want to be teaching.
We spent the next hour or so watching three videos: a toddler 1 class getting ready to go outside, a toddler 2 class waking up and getting ready to go outside and finally a preschool classroom cleaning up their classroom. Teachers had three protocols to choose from to focus their thoughts as they watched. One was about limited resources; tracking time, space and attention and how they were allotted. The next was grounded in our Reggio Emilia inspiration examining the role of the teacher, the role of the child, and the role of the environment in the clip. Finally, Some teachers used a list of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligence to see what kind of learning was taking place.
Monica: I noticed that even though they were running back and forth and doing other things, they were trusted by their teachers. the kids who needed attention, they got the attention they needed
Mari: I was thinking about our Reggio inspiration...the image of the child, the trust. Each [of the children] were focused on something different, touching a basket, looking out the window, looking at [the class next door through the window]. This was a situation where it could be chaotic for a teacher "Don't' touch that! Come here! Your coat, and here's your hat!"
Sarah: There was a lot of room for intra-personal learning, one kid is lying on his or her mat, taking care of themselves, waking up. Phineas is given the choice to eat inside or outside, when he is frustrated they say "I just didn't hear you, it's not a big problem." Teachers helping children learn who they are as individuals.
Debbie: I was struck by the kinesthetic part... that once they got their coat on, they weren't just sitting on the bench, they were running through. There was energy that was all allowed and encouraged.
H: I noticed the role of the teacher: I liked all the questions, asking for teamwork, asking "Can you show me where this goes?" instead of just picking it up.
Athletes watch videos with their coaches to really see the way that their bodies work, the consequences of their choices as they work. We use videos in our professional development for the same reason; to notice things from the outside that we can't from the inside. Our center values collectivity, so we watch videos together.
The ones we watched were all taken in one hour last week, we didn't prepare for them in any way. I just showed up with a camera and asked permission and teachers graciously assented. Every time I share video of a teacher to other teachers I'm humbled by the willingness of the watched to share themselves and by the gratitude, sensitivity and recognition offered by the watchers.