About me

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A twist on a standard topic - All about me!

At the beginning of every school year, across the country and quite probably the world, Teachers are preparing their first unit of study - All about me! The purpose of course; to get to know the new class. My experience has been, until recently, that the same unit was pulled out (dusted off) and presented in day by day stages. This unit typically would also be used to assess the children's ability to read, write and draw within the first few days of school.

Last month I started work at a Reggio inspired school in Bangkok. I would like to offer the perspective the school has taken and the twist on this project. 

Firstly there is a great focus on relationships and relationship building. This focus has guided protocol and policy making, for example there is no formal assessment within the first 3 weeks of school. The understanding being that children need time to settle in school after a long summer break and to feel comfortable in their new surroundings and with their new teacher. 

Secondly, that this project All about me is not to be used primarily for assessment purposes. Yes, as a teacher you may observe things but there is not the expectation of having the children sit down on day 1 and recount their summer holiday in writing. The primary purpose of this project is to get to know the children, to really get to know them.

As a group of teachers we spent some time thinking about how we were going to launch this first project. We discussed possible questions and reflected upon the fact that while most children would have travelled outside of Bangkok for their summer, some would have stayed at home. We didn't want to exclude these children or make them feel like their experience was lesser because they hadn't gone away. This value of inclusiveness influenced the types of questions we decided to ask the children.  We felt that asking "what have you been doing in your time away from school?" was more appropriate than "Where did you go in your holiday?" We also thought that there may be some confusion about terminology for example a word 'holiday' for Americans means Thanksgiving or Christmas, whereas for Europeans is means a break. Working at an international school means we need to consider these things. 

We also decided that it would be important as teachers to share our own experiences with the children, and through this modelling we could focus on various aspects such as an emotional reflection about an experience. 

In the second week of school we asked the children to bring in photos of their experiences. I shared two photos showing my big move to Bangkok and the children had the opportunity to share theirs. I asked each child to share with the rest of the class their experiences. This is where things went a bit awry. While some of the children were happy and confident to share their experiences in front of a group, many of them clammed up when it was their turn and I ended up having to ask alot of questions to encourage the more reserved children to share. This did not encourage an open dialogue with the rest of the group, and didn't spark much further discussion. 

At the end of the second week I shared my disappointment about how our sharing had gone with the other teachers. I realised that a whole class forum was not the way to encourage discussion at this early stage of the year. Moving forward I decided that we needed to revisit these holiday experiences in smaller groups to encourage relationship building and more in depth dialogue and interaction. 

I appreciated the emphasis on using this provocation as a springboard into our project work and the time the children were encouraged to take to truly explore this concept of 'identity'. 

No comments:

Post a Comment