I have been thinking a lot about my one word, “perspective,” today. It started during a discussion with my teaching partner, Paula, this morning. She was away sick yesterday, and so during our PA Day today, we reflected on what happened yesterday. In the afternoon, a group of children turned our sponge painting from the morning into finger painting. When we started talking, Paula mentioned that she doesn’t mind finger painting, but with intention. While we do have a few students that are at a dumping and spreading stage, many of our students are beyond this. So did they need to be involved? Not necessarily, but was their involvement for a different purpose?
It was these students that turned this experience into collaborative play. Without them there, most of the other children would have more likely engaged in parallel play. With student modelling, they started to partake in the discussions, ask questions, and extend the conversations even after many children left. This experience was also a great option for self-regulation: while the painting itself was louder and exciting, the children were all much quieter and calmer later as they went to play elsewhere. For some students, it wasn’t necessarily about the painting, but about the sensory experience. As we had this conversation, we both got to see the learning from different perspectives, and realized that sometimes the learning outcomes for the same activity, may vary depending on the child.
Fast forward to later on in the morning and a look at this huge stick that some students brought in from the forest just before the winter holidays. This stick drives me crazy! We’ve had the stick on the stove in the kitchen, on the floor in dramatic play, and on the carpet in the block area. I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve stubbed my toe on this stick. I have told Paula, on multiple occasions, that I’m going to take it back outside, but I haven’t … yet. As we organized a few things for next week, Paula moved the stick into the Book Nook area. I looked at her and said, “I’m taking it out!” That’s when Paula replied, “Don’t. Let’s paint it.” Paint? Why would we paint it? Will the tempera paint even stick to it? Paula thought that it would, and that it might be a way to experiment with different elements of design.
As she lay it on the table, we both looked at this stick differently: it looks like a dinosaur! Our students love dinosaurs. Paula then saw the pine cones under our sensory bin, and wondered if they could be spikes. Could they? As part of our current VIP, we’re examining different forms of art and different artists. This stick could become another collaborative art piece. Paula started talking about a “mindful sight” option for Monday, and about brainstorming ideas orally during our morning meeting and seeing where the students go from there. Maybe we can find some more sticks in the forest for legs or wings. What about texture? All it took was moving the stick and looking at it differently — another new perspective — to make me as excited about it as Paula is.
Today was a great reminder for me that we all need people who challenge our thinking. We need people who won’t just agree with us, but will ask questions, provide a different point of view, and help us see things through a new lens. I used to think that I wanted a teaching partner that saw things as I did, but now I realize the value in some differences. Maybe we all need those partners that have a similar underlying belief system, but also different views and experiences, plus the willingness to speak up and express their thoughts. We need people who question us, that challenge us, and that help us think more about the reasons behind our decisions. Along with this, we need to be willing to listen, to pause, and to reconsider our own views. Do you have these people? What impact do they have on you? Once again, I realize how lucky I am to have Paula, who is one of these important people for me.