"We have always maintained that children have their own questions and theories, and that they negotiate the theories with others. Our duties as teachers is to listen to the children, just as we ask them to listen to one another. Listening means giving value to others, being open to them and what they have to say. Listening legitimizes the other person's point of view, thereby enriching both the listener and the speaker. What teachers are asked to do is create contexts where such listening can take place."
Carla Rinaldi cited in Edwards, Gandini and Forman (1998)
How do we authentically listen to children?
Listening is not just about listening with your ears, it is about listening with all of your senses. Through listening with all of your senses you will be able to discover provocations for projects and direction in existing projects. Listening with all your senses is not easy. There are many things that stand in the way of authentically listening to children, for example, your values, pre-conceived ideas, assumptions, biases, 'rules' etc etc Listening is not about producing answers for children, rather it formulates more questions. These things challenge us when we try to listen to children.
I recently listened to a presentation by a fellow educator who felt challenged by what the children were 'telling' her. A group of boys in her group loved the cartoon character, Ben 10, they would bring in small figurines and re-inact the cartoon in the classroom. At first she tried to resist this interest and stop the play through 'rules'. Then she realised that the children valued this play and that she wasn't really listening to them. Based on this realisation she changed her tact and embraced this play, encouraging the boys to draw pictures, create sets and props using clay and cardboard, and re-inact the story lines. This developed into a project for the children.
I see my role as an educator to listen, recognise, support, challenge, extend children's thinking and theories by creating an environment where this is valued.