Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sometimes We Just Need To Focus Our Lens!

I overheard a conversation today that I can't resist the temptation to reflect on.  Now I wasn't eavesdropping...okay maybe I was, but their conversation truly intrigued me.  I was first drawn in by the statement, "I went to preschool with [insert child's name] today."  Now I don't know if this was a mother, a grandmother, or an aunt for that matter, but her next comment hit me in the gut.
She looked at her eager listener [not me] and said...
"I'm not sure they ever teach at that school! Every time I visit, the children are ONLY playing."

Whoa!  From that point on, every other sound in the room was tuned out so that I could, for research purposes only, listen intently just in case the conversation might let me in on what key aspects of learning she was looking for.

To summarize, here is what she saw during her visit to her son's pre-kindergarten classroom...
  • "He was digging through spaghetti noodles to find grapes."
  • "He was running around the carpet playing 'Monster Mash' freeze."
  • "He was wandering around the room wearing 'monster goggles' with colored lenses."
After hearing her description of the day, and thinking to myself, 'I hope she's talking about one of my classrooms because those are great lessons', I forced myself to take a moment of reflection and take off my teacher lenses.  

The words that she used did not exactly paint a conventional picture of learning, learning the way that she was probably taught.  I found myself wondering...'Did the teacher offer any kind of explanation for the learning that was embedded within those activities?'  

I truly believe that it is our role as educators to support the parents' role as the primary influence on their child's education.  In order to do this, we must communicate with parent's regarding how young children learn!

Post reflection, my gut was telling me to do something that I was not completely comfortable with.  I knew that I had to take this opportunity to 'let this lady borrow my teacher lenses.'  Somehow, I weaseled my way into the conversation and together, we began a conversation about children's learning that I wish I could have recorded and mass produced to all our parents.

As our conversation drew on, I realized that this woman did not need 'teacher lenses', she just needed to learn how to focus her own lens!!!  I explained that childhood is a time of learning and children learn from all they do, see and hear.  I helped her to see the importance of early childhood teachers providing activities that encourage active engagement that is essential for learning.  

A 15 minute conversation made all the difference to how she now viewed her child's learning experiences.  As we discussed the activities that she had observed, Sheila [I now knew her name] was immediately going home to tell her husband all that her son had learned at school today and her lens was focused and ready to watch for teachable moments with play!  Because she now knew that...


  • He wasn't just "digging through spaghetti noodles to find grapes."
This activity not only reinforced his tactile perception and manual dexterity by sorting the grapes from the spaghetti without any visual cues, he was also participating in a sensory activity that would engage his senses in a learning experience that would stimulate brain development.  From the instant that he was born, he has been exploring his new world through his senses.  As he experiences new and different textures, smells, sights, sounds, and textures, more neural connections are made in his brain, and his brain becomes a rich network of connections that will help his development for the rest of his life.

  • He wasn't just  "running around the carpet playing 'Monster Mash' freeze."
He was learning self regulation by using his auditory processing skills to determine when it was appropriate to run and when he had to stop.  Self regulation is a skill that will greatly influence his success in kindergarten.   He was doing all this while, using his spatial relational reasoning to manipulate his body in space and not run into any of his friends.

  • He wasn't just  "wandering around the room wearing 'monster goggles' with colored lenses."
By wearing the colored lens goggles, he was encouraged to 'focus his lens' on the task at hand.  The teacher was asking them to find shapes in the environment.  By removing the added distraction of multi-colored items, the students were able to focus on the physical attributes of the shapes that surround their everyday environment.  Finding shapes in our environment, creates concrete examples for a task that can be quite an abstract concept.

So parents...I challenge you today to 'focus your lens' and discover what learning is occurring during your child's favorite activities.  

Please share your discoveries, we can learn a great deal from each other!

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