Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Now I'm on the Reds"

Recently I met with some other children's leaders to talk about teaching and curriculum. We discussed different issues related to teaching grade school kids (primarily) - study plans, media and music, and so forth. At one point after the meeting, one of the leaders said, "We can talk about all of this but in the end it comes down to relationships."

That has really stayed with me. I look at my new class and think about the learning adventures we will have this year. We'll learn all kinds of things and do all kinds of things. We'll investigate the world and think about concepts and try ideas. We'll hear stories and learn truths from the Bible. We'll have fun doing things together. And the bulk of that learning--if not all of that learning--will come as a result of relationships. The relationships that the kids build with each other, sharing ideas and trying things together. The relationships the kids build with me and Mrs. Cindy. The things they say; the things I say. The way we discover together.

And, in my classroom, "O" is helping me remember this. All the first day, he looked like he may cry at any moment. He was so serious - and maybe a little uncertain because of this new experience. He seemed interested and engaged but so serious. I discovered that he was quiet, not wanting to talk much or call attention to himself.

The next week, I watched him quietly build a small catapult and test it with small blocks. He caught me watching and smiled. I gave him a thumbs up.

Last week he arrived in the room first. No one else was in the room but me; Mrs. Cindy had stepped out to find something. "Tell him about your baseball team," his father suggested as he closed the door. "O" sat at the table and began working with the beads. I talked about the colors and what he was doing and then we sat in comfortable silence as he worked and I watched. "I was on the Yankees," O said. "Now I'm on the Reds." We talked about his practices in short bursts, as other children filled the room and Mrs. Cindy returned. O moved on throughout the room, quietly investigating. I moved through the room, doing my thing.

This week O arrived with a homemade light saber. We talked about it and put it in a safe place. O moved to the writing table and began to draw. He drew a black line across the top of his paper. "Black?" I asked. "It's space," he said. He continued with grass and sky (under space) and so forth. We're building a relationship. I'm learning about him, his interests, and his temperament. Also what he likes to do. He's learning that the classroom is a place where he can explore and discover safely in ways he likes to explore. And, hopefully, he's learning that adults in his class are interested in him and want to help him learn more about the world and the Bible.
O's drawing - notice space above the sky.
I can have the best curriculum and top-notch resources. I can have lots of fun activities and the most interesting place to explore and learn. But without a relationships, the learning environment is severely limited. Exploring and learning are enhanced through talking with others and working with others.

I'm working to create a place where kids can learn together, work together, and relate to each other.


  1. So true Scott. One of the things I value most about progressive education is that relationships are at it's core: relationships between peers, relationships between teachers and children, relationships with families - and as Alfie Kohn says, it is all marinated in community.

  2. You're spot on here Scott. When our children start pre-kinder with me they are three years old. I then teach them in kindergarten the following year with Sherry. The fact that I have spent 40% of their lives with them by the time they leave us means I get to create some very beautiful relationships - children, Mum's and Dad's, siblings, grandparents, carers ... but most specially the connection over two years with the children ... It's all such a pleasure!
    Donna :) :)