Ottawa U

Teaching Ambition & Mindfulness in Kindergarten

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Please find the file to download here: 3151 mindfulness

Topic: Teaching ambition and mindfulness in Kindergarten

 Summary and Results

Working from a place of mindfulness allows us to practice a growth mindset. While there are many different skills and competencies that kindergartens are tasked with learning in the two year program, we often forget how important it is to teach students how to self-regulate. When you think about it, this is no easy task! Some students are just 3 years old and are in an entirely new environment where they are having to learn how to get along with their peers, deal with many new emotions and are completely outside of their comfort zones. These are real life experiences that these students will have to go through for the rest of their lives. It is important that we as educators acknowledge that and help students understand their feelings and develop appropriate and encouraging strategies to navigate these waters. By teaching students about their feelings, and encouraging them to understand what feelings are and how we identify them, we open the ability to have conversations about appropriate ways to deal with these feelings.

If students have the confidence to identify, feel and manage their emotions, they will be better able to learn and manage social problems with their peers. They will not only better understand their own feelings and how to manage them, but they will also be more understanding of the emotions of their peers.

By starting to bring awareness and teach mindfulness and a growth mindset in the early years of kindergarten, you are able to continue this development through the progression of the primary junior years.

Links to practicum and other courses

During my last practicum where I was in a kindergarten classroom, we had yoga Fridays. We would start each Friday morning off with 40 minutes of yoga. When I first heard of this, I had little faith that the students would be able to focus and successfully complete 40 minutes of yoga. To my surprise, they were great! Of course they needed some reminders and we had discussions about the importance of calming ourselves. Fridays are typically tougher than most days, but when we did yoga, students were much more centered and focused. Seeing that, I was eager to see how I could push this practice further.

In our inclusive classroom courses (4142 etc.,) we talk about all of the different learning styles, abilities and exceptionalities that are present in one classroom. By conducting research on various ways to teach mindfulness and ambition in a kindergarten classroom, I was able to investigate and collect a diverse array of tools that will work for students of all capabilities and stages.

Strategies for Professional Practice

Through the process of my resource, I was able to develop a diverse toolkit of strategies that aid in the teaching of growth mindset and mindfulness in a kindergarten classroom.  For the purposes of being concise, I have organized them into 3 categories; apps, games and activities.

Apps:

Mindfulness For Children-  Meditation for Kids (iTunes)

Just nominated as best Children app 2017 in Denmark. Research indicates that mindfulness can help children improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset and to make better decisions.

◉ This App provides 4 guided meditation for kids (4-16 minutes long).

◉ With step by step easy to follow audio instructions on how to meditate.

◉ Hand-picked quality sounds of nature for relaxing, falling asleep, and staying asleep.

◉ A great tool for teaching mindfulness meditation to children.

Mindfulness for Children provides relaxing sounds of nature to help children calm down and improve focus/concentration. A calm, reassuring voice gives step by step audio instructions on how to meditate. With descriptions and terms aimed at children, users are taken through body scans, visualizations and breathing exercises.

 Breathing Bubbles (iTunes- Free)

Breathing Bubbles is an app that helps kids practice releasing worries and focusing on good feelings by allowing kids to select the emotion they are feeling and how strongly they are feeling it. Kids can choose to handle their emotion by releasing a worry or receiving a joy as Manny the Manatee walks them through deep breathing and visualization.

Positive Penguins (iTunes- $0.99, Android- $1.99)

The four positive Penguins take you on an interactive journey to help you understand that feelings arise from your thinking and if you challenge your negative thoughts successfully you may be able to see things in a more realistic and even optimistic way.

Super Stretch Yoga (iTunes- Free)

Super Stretch is an educational yoga tool to use and teach the fun of physical activity and breathing to children. They will use the skills of self-awareness, self-esteem and self-regulation that they learn from this app as a foundation for the rest of their lives.

Games: 

Blowing Bubbles:

Have your kids focus on taking in a deep, slow breath, and exhaling steadily to fill the bubble. Encourage them to pay close attention to the bubbles as they form, detach and pop or float away.

Playing with balloons:

Tell your kids that the aim of this game it to keep the balloon off the ground, but have them move slowly and gently. You can tell them to pretend the balloon is very fragile if that helps.

Listen to the bell:

An easy way for children to practice mindfulness is to focus on paying attention to what they can hear. You can use a bell, a set of chimes or a phone app that has sounds on it. Tell your students that you will make the sound, and they should listen carefully until they can no longer hear the sound (which is usually 30 seconds to a minute). This exercise does have a calming effect on students, and is a fun way to teach them to pay attention to their surroundings.

Activities:

Breathing Buddies:

Hand out a stuffed animal to each child (or another small object). If room allows, have the children lie down on the floor and place the stuffed animals on their bellies. Tell them to breathe in silence for one minute and notice how their Breathing Buddy moves up and down, and any other sensations that they notice. Tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away. The presence of the Breathing Buddy makes the meditation a little friendlier, and allows the kids to see how a playful activity doesn’t necessarily have to be rowdy.

Body scan:

Ask students to lie down on the ground on their backs. Start at the top of their head and tell them to think about how different parts of their bodies “Feel”, moving down the body from their head to their toes as the activity progresses. Ask questions such as:

  •   How does your hair feel?
  •   What about your forehead?
  •   What’s happening in your ears today?
  •   Are they feeling like ears?

Tell them to think about how they might move a little as they breathe in and out, all the way down to their toes. When it is over, ask the students how they felt during the exercise and how they feel now.

Peaceful Problem Solving:

By conducting meaningful, age appropriate discussions on the topic of problem solving, we can help students develop a step-by-step process for understanding feelings, identifying a problem and creating solutions. This is a great way to make the concept of problem solving an interacting lesson in your kindergarten classroom!

Morning Messages:

Cultivate a positive learning environment with these mindful morning messages! As a teacher, you can begin your day with meaningful, developmentally appropriate discussions amongst students about their feelings and experiences. These activities prepares students to go out into the world with confidence, resilience, and patience.

Further Research

If I was to continue my research on this topic, I would focus my work on how to transition mindfulness and the growth mindset in the primary years to the junior years. After finishing this project, I am very familiar with tools and strategies for K-3, but I feel like I would need more mature and developmentally appropriate resources to continue teaching these skills in the junior grades.

Resources

HR Inside PTY LTD. (2013) Positive Penguins. Version 2.0 [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/positive-penguins/id570371342?mt=8

Kindergarteners Talk About Mindfulness in “Just Breathe” Short Film. (2016, August 12). Retrieved March 21, 2018, from https://www.mindful.org/kindergarteners-talk-about-mindfulness-in-just-breathe-short-film/

Jannik Holgersen. (2014) Mindfulness for Children- Meditation for Kids. Version 1.2. [Mobile application software] Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mindfulness-for-children-meditation-for-kids/id932347773?mt=8

Mindfulness Activities for Children And Teens: 25 Fun Exercises For Kids. (2018, February 02). Retrieved March 21, 2018, from https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/mindfulness-for-children-kids-activities/

Roman, K. (2015, April 02). 7 Fun Ways To Teach Your Kids Mindfulness. Retrieved March 21, 2018, from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-18136/7-fun-ways-to-teach-your-kids-mindfulness.html

The Active Educator. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2018, from https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Active-Educator

The Adventures of Super Stretch, LLC. (2001) Super Stretch Yoga. Version 1.2.1. [Mobile application software] Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/super-stretch-yoga/id456113661?mt=8


4142 Interview Inquiry Artefact (file for download here Inquiry Artefact)

Inquiry Question: “How do you support the learning of both JK and SK students when they are in a combined class, but are at much different stages of learning?”

Rationale: There is a large misconception that being a kindergarten teacher is just being a higher paid babysitter. What the public fails to understand and acknowledge is that kindergarten and the education that the children receive, is the fundamental building blocks that will set the tone and foundation for each child’s social-emotional and intellectual success in their coming years[1]. While all teachers and educators alike are faced with the important responsibility of educating our youth and play a large hand in the positive upbringing of today’s youth, Kindergarten teachers are faced with an increasingly difficult task. Currently, the province of Ontario funds full-day kindergarten based on 26 students per class, while many classes often exceed this number leaking into the low 30’s as there is no cap[2]. There are standards that each class must meet in that there is a ratio of 1 adult to 13 students which are set in the name of safety and classroom management[3].

A class size of 26 in itself is quite large, then add to the equation that these students are between the ages of 3-5. Some of these students are attending school for the first time and are just getting used to the idea of being away from their parents and are quite uncomfortable in their new environment. Your class is also made up of students who are just being introduced to literacy and numeric content, who are just learning how to properly hold a pencil and who are for the first time learning to make new friends, navigate social interactions with their peers and assume responsibility for themselves in making sure they get dressed and undressed on time.

While this diversity is expected in the kindergarten environment, we often forget to acknowledge the importance of addressing the needs of each student in our classroom. Whether that means aiding students who are not meeting the expectations or benchmarks of their age/year, or supporting the students who are ready to be challenged and who are exceeding the expectations of their age/year. This is the reality of a kindergarten classroom when it is a combination of both JK and SK students.

While carrying out my final placement in a kindergarten classroom, I realized that there was a void in support and information for kindergarten teachers. As teachers, we want to do our best; we want to support each of our students and address their strengths and needs. So how, when we have a class full of students who are at different learning stages, do we support them each fairly? While in my placement, I began to make notes of the strategies and techniques that I was using that helped me in addressing this hurtle. It was apparent that the solution for this problem was a combination of strategic lesson planning, team work, flexible centers, scheduling and assessment.

This inquiry artefact is a condensed reflection of the tools and strategies that I used in order to support my kindergarten teaching experience.

Strategic Lesson Plan Template:

Upon starting my placement in kindergarten, I had a difficult time settling on a lesson plan template that complimented my teaching style and supported the kindergarten program and its fluidity. While the kindergarten program means that the topics and content that are being addressed in the classroom are ever changing, the instructor still must work off of some form of structure. Working with a goal or a vision in mind allows for a more successful outcome, regardless of how you arrive there. With that in mind, I created my own lesson template that I felt, suited my needs as an educator but that complimented the kindergarten program.

I wanted a lesson plan template that was well organized, easy to read and allowed for multiple points to include differentiation. I wanted the lesson plan template to continuously force me to think about how I could cater each lesson to support my students at the varying points of the lesson development. This meant that I looked at the lesson I was creating and fit in points at the beginning, middle and end where I could make the lesson easier or more challenging for students who needed different kinds of support in order for the lesson/activity to suit their intellectual needs and stage.

Please see my Custom Lesson Planner below:

Kindergarten Lesson Plan Template

Scheduling:

Just like it was explained in the Strategic Lesson Plan Template, it is important to have a vision for your week. Because a kindergarten classroom has so many different students who are at different learning stages, the teacher must plan how they are going to address them all throughout the week. I found that it was most helpful to develop a week at a glance, where I was able to schedule time for each topic, frame, or lesson that I wanted to address. Many times, I would veer away from my weekly plan and would have to adjust it to suit the interests and needs of my students, but it was a good starting point. My week at a glance serves as an excellent running document for not only me, but also for my team members (ECE’s).

The week at a glance is best created with the input of all of your classroom team members. At the end of each week, I would sit down with my ECE’s and we would look at the week ahead. We would ask one another:

  • What are our learning goals for next week?[1]
  • What is the success criteria for our learning goals?[2]
    • Noticing and naming the learning
  • Is there anything that you want to try next week?
  • Who do you think needs some extra one-on-one support?
  • What worked this week?
  • What did not work this week?

From there, we would create our week at a glance, scheduling:

  • Large group work
  • Small group work (smaller ratio of kids to educators)
  • Centers
  • One-on-One direct instruction

By taking the time to create this schedule, we optimize all of the time that we have in the week. It sets our kindergarten classroom up to meet the needs of all of our students. When we are doing small group work, we can strategize that the JK/SK students are split up based on their year and we can work more closely with their learning stages. By scheduling time for one-on-one direct instruction, we are ensuring that we are reserving time for students who might be struggling and need to be pulled away from their peers or bigger learning environments in order to succeed.

Here you can find an example of my Kindergarten week at a glance: Week at a glance

Team Work:

Kindergarten is what I like to call, a “team sport”. It requires all of the various education members (teachers, teaching partners, ECE’s, EA’s, resource support workers etc.,) to be on the same page and to have the same goals. By working together and working from the same plan, we can ensure that the needs of all of our JK and SK students are being met.

Because the week at a glance has been created together for the classroom team members, we have designed a functional action plan that allows for each student to have more intimate and smaller instructional time with their educators throughout the day. This is beneficial not only for the immediate learning of the students, but for us as educators. During this time of smaller group work or guided play, educators are able to observe the students. It is crucial that observations are being continuously recorded. Educators will be asking students questions during their guided learning such as:

  • What are you doing?
  • What did you make?
  • Can you describe what this is?
  • Can you describe what you just made?

By having the students notice and name their learning and actions[1], educators can create a picture for the students of what and how they are learning and support them in moving forward, no matter what their developmental level[2]. These observational records will help serve the future plans for learning. It will help tell us as educators which students need more time to understand and gain confidence in this week’s learning goals, which students need to be given tasks that will challenge them and where as a class we should be headed.

Furthermore, through this act of team work, educators can work with students on an individual level to co-create their own goals.

Young children are learning to become independent learners. Educators facilitate the development of children’s self-assessment skills by providing support and then gradually releasing responsibility to the children, within their zone of proximal development. With this kind of support, children learn to identify for themselves what they need to do to further their own learning. By “noticing and naming the learning”, providing guidance through descriptive feedback, and supporting the development of self-assessment skills, educators enable Kindergarten children to begin their development as autonomous, self-regulating, lifelong learners.[1]

The only way to successfully orchestrate a classroom that meets the needs of all students, both JK and SK alike, is to have a strong support team put in place. The classroom team must work together, agree on the common, overall goals for classroom and student successful and be willing to work collaboratively.

 Flexible Centers and Lessons:

Through my experience, I have found that the most stress-free and natural way to attempt to address the differing stages of learning in a JK/SK classroom, is to create flexible activities and lessons. This means creating centers and lessons that can be made easier or more challenging depending on how each student responds to it. In the spirit of sharing my knowledge and experience, I have provided below a few different examples of flexible activities and lessons that I used in my classroom. These activities and lessons were altered based on each students developmental and academic stage.

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 3.12.59 PM

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 3.13.40 PMScreen Shot 2018-03-18 at 3.13.46 PMScreen Shot 2018-03-18 at 3.13.55 PM

It is important to note that while this inquiry question is addressing the dilemma of having both JK and SK students in the same Kindergarten class, the reality is that even within the respective JK and SK  groups, students will be at differing stages of learning. Developing flexible centers for guided play and lessons/activities will help navigate through these academic differences and work towards the overall goal of helping each student achieve their own marker of success.

 Assessment:

As educators, we must always bear in mind that children enter the Kindergarten program at different stages of development and with a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences. These differences will greatly affect how they demonstrate their learning, their social-emotional intellect and their readiness to meet the various expectations of the program[1]. In order to address assessment of and as learning, a strong assessment for learning will be needed. Teachers and educators must take into consideration various factors that will affect each student’s individual learning opportunities and readiness. These factors are but are not limited to[2]:

  • Adjustment period to school
  • Time of day
  • The situation
  • The kinds of questions that are asked
  • the child’s previous experience and familiarity with the content
  • the child’s facility with the language of instruction
  • differences in cultural norms, values, and practices regarding learning and ways of demonstrating learning
  • the child’s capacity for social interaction

“To allow for and come to understand the range of influences that may affect a child’s learning at any given time, educators should observe and document the child’s learning on an ongoing basis in the context of everyday experiences, using a variety of strategies and tools[3].” These observations and acknowledgements will allow for a more appropriate and accurate assessment of learning and a suitable learning plan for each individual student in your combined JK and SK kindergarten classroom.

Summary and Conclusion:

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 3.16.19 PM

References

Cain, J. (2013). The way I feel. Columbus, O.H.: Zaner-Bloser.

Growing success: Assessment, evaluation, and reporting in Ontario schools: The kindergarten addendum. (2016). Toronto: Queens Printer for Ontario.

Growing success: Assessment, evaluation and reporting in Ontarios schools: Covering grades 1 to 12. (2010). Toronto: Ministry of Education.

Smaller classes for everyone. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://www.buildingbetterschools.ca/smaller_classes_for_everyone

 The kindergarten program 2016. (2016). Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Education.

Waddell, D. (2017, April 13). More teachers required after province reduces class sizes. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from http://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/more-teachers-required-after-province-reduces-class-sizes

 


Differentiation and Inclusive Practices

Upon my very first day of teachers college, it felt like I was constantly hearing the word differentiation. To be completely honest, I had NO idea what the term meant, what it entailed or how important it would become in my daily practices. Throughout my time in teachers college, we have investigated the term differentiation in many different capacities and through many different vehicles. We have sought out to perfect the definition, we have looked for it within the curriculum, we have identified it within our placement classrooms and we have worked together to develop examples of differentiation in our own activities and teaching practices.

As per the Learning for All document, differentiation can be described and defined as being a practice that enables educators to respond effectively to the strengths and needs of all students (pg. 12).

To differentiate instruction is to recognize students’ varying levels of background knowledge, readiness to learn, language ability, learning preferences, and interests, and to react responsively. (Adapted from Hall, Strangman, & Meyer, 2003, pp. 2–3)

Through brain research, 3 concepts have indicated why it is so important to make differentiation and inclusive practices a priority in education. Firstly, learners who experience discomfort in regards to rejection, failure, pressure or intimidation may not feel safe in certain learning environments. Secondly, learning should neither be too difficult or too easy, meaning that learnings must be appropriately challenged. Lastly, learners must be able to make meaning of new ideas and skills through significant association with elements of previous knowledge and experience. Students different significantly in their strengths, interests, learning styles and readiness to learn (17), as a teacher, it is necessary to adapt your instruction in order to suit all of these differing characteristics.

While all of this makes sense, I see differentiation in a quite simpler sense. The lack of differentiation is why I thought I was not “smart” for most of my elementary and secondary school experience. For the longest time I thought, “I am just not good at math”, “I am just not good at science”. It wasn’t until years later when in my 2nd undergrad that I took a biology course. The course was taught extremely hands on and made the students be very active in the investigations. Gone were the long textbook readings that were full of words and concepts that I had to try and make sense of myself. Instead, there were experiments, interactive videos and visuals that brought the concepts to life; I finished with a 96% in the course and loved it. There have been many other similar experiences but in short, I realized, “I am completely capable, I am smart”. I was just not being taught in a way that connected with me or that suited my learning style.

Being in a kindergarten classroom I see differentiation everywhere. Quite honestly, I feel like kindergarten should be the poster board for differentiation! Every station in the classroom caters to various learning styles; hands on, audio, visual, etc., You watch students run to their favourite stations; why are those their favourite stations? Because they connect to them! It makes sense to them! Of course it is important to encourage the students to try different stations in order to work on different skills and to challenge themselves. But in kindergarten, I think we often forget that we are constantly looking at differentiation because it gets disguised as just making lots of different stations that will be great for the different kids in your class!


Mental Health and Well-Being

In Fogarty’s “Invite, Excite, Ignite”, she discusses the importance of the teachers attitude and the way they view their students. “Teachers must demonstrate in words, actions, and deeds that they do indeed believe in each and every student in their classroom” (chapter 12, Fogarty) and from my limited experience, this couldn’t be more true. Let me begin with a little anecdote:

Coming into a new year’s in a kinder class, we began the year with intake interviews. There was one student registered who briefly attended the school last year because their parent pulled them from the program. I was heavily warned and cautioned that this student coming into my classroom would be very high needs, extreme behavior problems and a downright terror to deal with. As a fresh teacher, I was immediately taken aback and began to worry. I went home that night, anxious for the day ahead as I knew I would be meeting this student tomorrow. However, something didn’t feel right to me… there was something in my gut that was telling me that I was already failing. I realized that I had no place starting the year off with these preconceived notions about this student, especially since I had never met them. Of course, I must prepare myself to understand what I could be faced with, as is documented in the student’s file. But it was my duty as this student’s teacher to approach them with an open mind and heart. That is what this student deserves, right?

Students come to school incredibly vulnerable at the age of 4 and 5. As a kindergarten teacher, you are not only tasked with starting the educational learning of children, but you are a foundational piece to how they approach and view themselves as a learner and as a person. While they may only be 4 and 5 years old, students are incredibly perceptive and able to pick up on how you feel about them. “The difference in the attitude, disposition, and sensibilities of a teacher can literally make or break the year for particular students” (chapter 12, Fogarty). As educators, it is our duty to help build and solidify the character and self-confidence of each of our students. How you think of your students, how you treat them, the faith you have in them, will be directly represented in the faith these students have in themselves and how they behave. Let me return to my anecdote from earlier:

After 6 weeks of working with this student, I had developed my own opinions. Of course, the student has some behaviour problems but the student I see before me and who I interact with each day is a stark contrast to the student described to me at the beginning of the year. This student is incredibly conversational, looks to be friends with all of their classmates. Excels academically, loves being involved in any and all classroom activities. This student is affectionate and makes you feel loved each day. As I look at my colleagues, I can see that my mindset is quite different than theirs. While I decided to go into this experience with fresh eyes and no opinions, they did not. What I see from my colleagues is a lot less patience exercised towards this student. What I see are colleagues predicting the worst behaviour from this student before giving them a chance. I hear a lot of chatter between colleagues about all of the problems or down points that have happened with this student. What I don’t hear is talk about all of the successes this student is achieving. What I don’t hear is how intelligent and exceptionally more advanced this student is than the student’s report gives them credit for. What I don’t see is this student being given a fair chance.

Let me clarify- I in no way think my colleagues are intentionally doing these things. I think they love their jobs and their students. I think sometimes it can be hard not to get caught up in the opinions of others and that by listening to others, it makes us feel not as bad about our situations. By having previous teachers or other colleagues tell you how difficult a student was, then it allows us as teachers to unload some of the responsibility because, well that’s how they were last year…its obviously not me.

But let me tell you- the day when this student had an emotional melt down and I went to them and asked them to take a deep, deep breath, they responded with:

“Miss. Lyons, I know I’m such a bad [person].”

….. Cue heartbreak. This student is 5 years old. This student is far too young to already have these kinds of opinions about themself. This is a learnt statement that needs to be rectified immediately. If this is not addressed immediately, this student is going to carry on through their entire education experience being labeled as a troubled student. This student is going to begin to truly believe these opinions about themselves. Once these opinions are manifested into their belief system, it will act as an excuse for the student to act inappropriately… it will be too late. In reality, this student has infinite possibilities and has the ability to achieve whatever they set their mind too. It’s us as teachers who are limiting them. We must not fail them- no matter how difficult, no matter how trying, no matter how long it takes. They deserve our belief and support.


Knowing Your Students

Being that this is my first, true experience with Kindergarten as a Teacher Candidate, understanding the importance and concepts behind inquiry based and lead learning is imperative. It is imperative to my success as a Teacher Candidate, future teacher and as a life-long learner. Getting to know and understanding the new Ontario kindergarten program is a feat in itself, when we as teacher candidates have spent so much time learning and adjusting to anchoring our teaching practices and goals to the curriculum. However, the kindergarten program is very much anchored in child-lead learning, where inquiry learning, which Robin J. Fogarty speaks to in her book, “Invite, Excite! Ignite” is at the forefront of everyone’s overring goal.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”- Xun Kuang

The above quote is where I, as a teacher candidate and future teacher, intend to ground my practices and education philosophy. While my experience is education and teaching is just beginning, I find myself being extremely comfortable in the junior grades. In my first year placement, I was readily and easily able to connect with my Grade 6 class and students. However, knowing that the following year I would be carrying out my final placement in a primary class, I was quite apprehensive; then to find out that I was placed in a kindergarten classroom! I was so scared because as a primary teacher, you are responsible for helping tiny humans learn and gain the basic fundamentals that they need to propel them and carry them through the rest of their lives. That scared me. What an enormous responsibility. Not to mention the character development and shaping that you as teacher inadvertently inspire. All this to say, that going into my first day of placement, I was a nervous wreck!

But let me tell you… child-lead and inquiry learning is the best thing that ever happened to me. It has taught me to take the focus off of myself as the teacher and to put the focus on my students. Granted, I know what I am looking for and what I need to be observing in my students but my daily inspiration comes from within my classroom, in my students.

Inquiry learning starts with a question… children are full of wonderful, enormous questions- they are endless! “It is not about questions with an answer; instead it involves questions with an investigation to drive learning and uncover the best solution” (Fogarty). Students learn best when they are active participators in their own learning, without even knowing it! In order to make students active participators and drivers of their own learning, I as an educator must “trust the learner”. This means allowing students to struggle a little and take the time to figure things out. For example- I was watching student A putting a puzzle together during quiet time. She was growing frustrated because she couldn’t get the last puzzle piece to fit. It was my first instinct to run over to her and fix the puzzle piece for her in order to eliminate her frustration and provide her with satisfaction. But instead, I sat back and watched her work through her frustration, trying to force the puzzle piece into place. When all of a sudden, she rotated the puzzle piece and the realization that she had figured out how to make the last puzzle piece fit, had landed. The joy that the student and I felt was more than it would have been for either of us, if I had simply come in and told her to turn the piece.

The struggle that I believe we face as educators today, is to abandon the perceived obligation that we must stick and cover all of the curriculum. Rather, we should use the curriculum as our guidebook, but look to our students and our environment for inspiration and as our tool to lead our learning. I am understand that this will be, at times, an uncomfortable experience- but will ultimately help me flourish as a teacher and a learner.

 

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