The winds of change whisper in the trees
And the walls of doubt crumble, tossed and torn
This comes to pass when a child is born.
While Twitter chunters away and argues volubly about the trad/prog dichotomy, or arguing that DI is the best way to teach, that there is the one true way to teach reading, writing, maths or any other subject.
While the Government pours more subtle, or less than subtle changes onto the system, making the whole harder to perceive or within which to make secure decisions that might last sufficient time to have the desired impact.
While all this is happening, it is worth remembering that at the centre of everything a teacher does is children. Having had two new children in the family in the past year, it has been an opportunity to marvel, yet again about their development, from complete dependence to the ability to start to do things for themselves. One, at a year old, is close to taking independent steps.
There are phases of movement, as they start to gain some muscle control, which allows them to sit up, to roll over, to rise on knees and hands and to begin to propel themselves as proto-crawling, often backwards to start, if arms are stronger than legs. Pulling themselves up, or being supported, strengthens their legs, until, one day, they do it for themselves. Walking takes another set of skills, muscular control and some self-confidence.
Interacting with people is done non-verbally for an extended time; lots of looking, listening and hand waving to signal, to point, to wave, to clap, to offer something to another and to seek it back. Interest in the things around them grows. When the cat enters the room and miaows, or someone new visits the house, to stop what they are doing and to show an interest in the novel is the norm. Going for a walk becomes less a bit of parent exercise than an opportunity to show the world around and to use that magical element of language, to offer the words that at some stage might become their own base for communication.
Children might enter some kind of collective experience early. There are so many opportunities available to families, through local libraries, those children’s centres that have survived, NCT and other parent-organised or more commercial groups. These are opportunities for parents to meet and talk, but also provide a vehicle for a lot of activity and talk; in other words, having a go accompanied by either a leader, parent or another child talking. Gradually and hopefully, children become socialised to others.
By the time children enter school, they have lived for at least four years; some will be almost five when they start. Their prior experiences will have a significant influence on their early progress into formal schooling; their ability to socialise, to listen and talk with others, to share and participate, to accept new ideas and opportunities.
You can’t see children learning; we haven’t yet learned how to open up their brains to see how the cogs are turning. We have to rely on their externalising how they are feeling, their focus as heads turn to see or hear, to watch their faces as they touch smell or taste something new. It can be a case of total guesswork, with many opportunities to get it wrong, as any parent will tell you. You can share, show and model things to children, encourage them to have a go and experience for themselves, as they move from gross motor activities to finer control, accepting that they may experience disappointment, but encouraging additional trying.
It is easy to see how parents are often described as their children’s first teachers, but very special teachers as there is an additional emotional bond, which manifests itself in celebrating the child’s ability to, literally and metaphorically, “take the next step”. These are also the magical classroom moments; when a child “gets it”. Play can be controlled with a focus on a particular activity determined by the parent, or free play with the adult joining in appropriately with the child.
Parenting can be a case of the romance of Rousseau, the stage noting of Piaget, the engaged other of Vygotsky, the linguistic developer of Bruner or Chomsky and the Growth Mindset encourager as Dweck, all rolled into one, but without the “baggage” of theory. Most parents respond as themselves, which is why some may need support and guidance, coaching and mentoring in order to offer the best possible opportunities to their children.
Parenting is not necessarily a natural state for every adult, which is why schemes such as Sure Start offered a great deal in the early years of development. But that's where politicians come in again...
Two additional posts look at learning from experience in the school setting.
Learning from experience
Experiential learning; a Teachmeet talk.