I don’t usually keep drafts of blog posts for very long, but this post has sat in the Drafts Folder for almost a year. There are questions in here that I continue to contemplate, as every classroom has students in it that are at different developmental levels. How do we help all students realize just what they’re capable of doing, and provide the conditions to allow success for all? A year later, I think about Karyn‘s talk from last year, and decided to publish a long overdue post. This is that post.
This morning, I had the opportunity to listen to Karyn Callaghan speak as part of a Kindergarten Networking Session in our Board. Now that I’ve had the chance to listen to her once, I hope that I’ll be able to do so again. Many things that Karyn said really resonated with me, but the words that I kept coming back to throughout the day were around our view of the child. As mentioned in Think, Feel, Act: Lesson From Research About Young Children, “The Ontario Early Years Policy Framework presents a view of the child as competent, curious, and capable of complex thinking” (page 13). This is a view that I believe, but as I nod along to these words, I also have a questioning voice in my head that is causing me to stop and think. If I view students as “competent and capable,” how does this mesh with any questions/concerns that I may have about “struggling learners?” Can these two thoughts co-exist, or if I’m saying that a child is “struggling,” then am I not viewing this child as “competent and capable?”
Kindergarten is a child’s first experience in school. Some JK students are just turning four. They just became toilet-trained. They’re just learning to make it through a day without a nap. This may be the first time that they go somewhere without their parents. Children may be biologically four- or five-years-old, but developmentally, some of them may still be like toddlers. What happens when biological and developmental ages don’t align? If we think about children at their developmental level, then instead of seeing a “struggling learner,” would we see them as “competent and capable” at the level at which they’re at?
I know that for us, we strive to program with each child in mind, and support the learning at each child’s developmental level. We try to make learning meaningful, and pose problems to get children to think more. I wonder though, is this enough? What more can we do to show children that we view them as “competent and capable,” and to ensure that all children see themselves in this same way? Karyn’s talk left me with more questions than answers, and I pose these questions to you here with the hope that we can make sense of them together. I know that as I go back to school tomorrow, I’ll be looking at our students through fresh eyes and asking myself, does our view of the child align with our classroom practices? What more could we do?