I've always been bookish and, as is the case for so many teachers, the holidays are the perfect time to get absorbed in reading. ‘Start With Why’ by the brilliant Simon Sinek is my current read and every page is reminding me of the reasons I embarked on a journey towards change. Why am I teaching? Why am I leading a team? Why has ‘Can I Go And Play Now?’ come about? Why am I sharing my vision?
And that challenge extends to you - why are you teaching? Why are you advocating a pedagogy? Why do you do what you do?
For me I keep coming back to the idea of ‘positive change’. As a teacher I want to be a force for positive change in my immediate surroundings by showing parents and colleagues that play is a powerful tool and by forming real and meaningful connections with others, so that my Foundation Unit can have an impact not just on children but within families and a community.
I want to give children Early Years experiences that immerse them in richness and wonder and, in turn, emotionally engage them in learning so that they can shape themselves to take on the world and one day change it even further and for the better. I want them to have a powerful voice that is heard and I want them to be at the centre of their learning adventure. In turn - and my ultimate 'Why' - I do this because I want to challenge the ‘accepted’.
If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know that I believe ‘magic’ is a really powerful force within children and one that we should be embracing within our learning environments because children have incredible potential if only we would allow them.
Trying to fill up children with ‘stuff’, confining learning to the constraints of table tops and following thematic approaches from half term to half term is the ‘accepted’ and is indicative of an Adult World that unfortunately shrouds the magic and marvel that children radiate so brightly should we only choose to look. The ‘accepted’ doesn’t give real space for children to explore, collaborate, take risk or be truly creative. The ‘accepted’ doesn’t hear children’s ‘voices’.
These ‘accepted’ ways are however prevalent across Early Years and beyond and in the next series of blogs I’ll be exploring these and inviting you to join me in challenging and changing them. Why do we need to consider changing? Put quite simply it’s because the accepted ways struggle to bring real joy or truly enable children and close down the possibility that children can have a real sense of themselves as citizens of change.
One simple way we compound the ‘accepted’ is with our approach to Continuous Provision. The ‘accepted’ is that adults set it up. We put great efforts in to making it look enticing, connecting it to a current theme, ensuring that there is a clear link to a maths or phonics focus with magnetic letters, words cards or laminated posters. This type of continuous provision is what we think adults want to see. I call it Pinterest Provision. It looks good. It looks like 'learning' will come from it. Unfortunately this type of continuous provision gives little space for the magic of children. This type of continuous provision creates closed and narrow ‘learning’ if any at all. Ultimately it is ineffective - niceness does not beget engagement nor skills development.
Effective continuous provision should enable all children who come to it. By setting it up, adults unknowingly constrict it. If the sand area is beautifully set up with as Dino World with mountains and caves and dinosaurs rampaging through them then all lovely but if I’m a child who isn’t set alight by dinosaurs then I will not go and explore the sand.
As an adult I have closed it down. Yes some children will be drawn to it but I am limiting learning even for these children because they are exploring only what I have offered to them. I am presenting continuous provision through adult eyes.
A more effective approach is to consider two things: what skills am I trying to develop in my children that my continuous provision can move forward and how am I enabling children to bring their magic to it?
Both can be answered by doing one simple thing and I’ll reveal all in next week’s blog. In the mean time why not give some thinking to the ‘why’ of your own practice. Why do you do what you do? It’s a question that is a real challenge but I hope the answer brings you back and together we can begin to explore and change the Early Years landscape that lies before us...
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....