Learning in play.

Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.
—O. Fred Donaldson
Contemporary American martial arts master

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.
—Diane Ackerman
Contemporary American author

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.
—Abraham Maslow
American psychologist, 1908–1970

As a young learner, I loved being in the Classroom. I found so much joy in learning, and knew that this was the site of exploration and discovery (or perhaps more importantly a place/space of validation and encouragement from my educators). Now that I am a teacher-in-training, my love for classroom spaces persists. Yet my favorite time of the school day has become Recess.

Every morning, I go out to Recess with the primary classes in my student teaching placement. There are so many benefits of this daily practice. The opportunity to go outside, run around, get some exercise; the ability to observe my students in  more unstructured social situations/settings; the act of directly modeling for my students a transition from “class time” to “play time” and back again; the critical moments of intervening in conflict, facilitating conversation/reconciliation, inviting a lonely child to play too. I am still processing and exploring what advantages and opportunities can come from participating in Recess. At this point, I believe the most valuable product of this practice has been the effect that play has had on my relationships with my students. Spending even just fifteen minutes a day playing with the kids—smiling and laughing, creating new games together, simply being goofy—has opened up and (radically) transformed many of our student-teacher dialogues and dynamics, both in the classroom and without. Our play seems to have cultivated a sense of mutual respect, confidence, comfort/safety, and (most importantly) trust.

Play is the heart of a (or at least my) Pedagogy of Belonging. I strongly believe that all teachers can benefit from going/coming out to Recess. Not as a monitor on “Recess Duty,” but as a co-participant in the creative and collective play that goes on. I am eager to experience the continuing transformation and transgression this practice permits/provides.

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Learning in Multiple Perspectives.

How people are represented is how they are treated.

—Stuart Hall

How do we represent Others and their world[s] for just purposes?

—Soyini Madison

Learning in many stories.

The single story creates stereotypes.
And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue,
but that they are incomplete.

—Chimamanda Adichie, Storyteller

Learning in vulnerability.

Stories are data with a soul.

—Brené Brown, Researcher-Storyteller

Learning in stories.

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it…
it brings about consent and reconciliation with things as they really are.

—Hannah Arendt, 1968

Learning in blogging.

In cyber spaces,
magical places reside:
Communication(s).

Social media are amazing tools for (professional) networking. Blogs provide an incredibly innovative space for educators to reflect on their practice, share their stories with each others, and exchange their ideas together. In a profession where constructive feedback and collaboration is far too rare and limited, these sites of inter-active (inter-national) communication offer the potential for informal and critical professional (and personal) development. Free of charge!

While I recognize and value the potential for blogging as a networking practice, I have found the greatest satisfaction in utilizing this space as a sort of publicized journal. I have shifted over the past month from a more theoretical/philosophical discourse (although I do still retreat back to this realm quite regularly) towards a methodology of storytelling. Through stories of directly witnessing teachers’ immediate responses in the face of controversy and discomfort to stories of specific students’ struggles and successes, I am starting to build a digital record of the toolkit I am currently/continually collecting/gathering as a student teacher and learner. Through reading these stories again, I re-visit the lessons these experiences have offered me, and consistently re-discover (new) meanings in ways that theorizing and philosophizing about them cannot capture. I am not sure if this is the same for other readers of my blog, yet I do assume/presume it is more interesting to read :]

Along with shifting towards storytelling, I have made a conscious effort to respond to every comment, even if to just acknowledge that I have read their message. The fact that someone else was willing to take the time to read my writing/work and respond to my words validates to me that I am using my energy to process/think about something worth while. In return, I want to honor the energy put into furthering the conversation (which would otherwise be with my self) by expressing my genuine response to their words. Many times, people’s thoughts compel me to want to push/pull the dialogue deeper and/or in different directions as well. Other times I simply want to smile, and I tell them this. As I continue to experiment with blogging, I would like to explore more of the in-between spaces of communication and dialogue among bloggers, as opposed to restricting myself to the mindset of writing a journal to/for myself. Time to practice some digital empathy!

Blogs connect people
across the globe; what can they
do in our classrooms?

Learning in poetry.

Pedagogical
Equity / Justice Mission.
Where is the action?

Why Anti-Bias?
Out of integration, a
new bias is born.

Empathy is key
to building community
and transforming it.

Respond quickly to
discomfort. That moment makes
all the difference.

Poems are hidden
beneath / between / before us,
waiting to be found.

To Mr. Hermit,
hiding amongst books and desks:
Come out! See the world!

Oh distant student,
How do I show you I care?
I just keep smiling.

I won’t forget you,
my people in the margins.
In you, our hope grows.

Is Delinquency
a symptom of a need for
a Classroom that cares?

My project is to
inspire the Creators
within everyone.

Teaching is Advocating.

In our literacy course, I have been working with a first grade student who is an English Language Learner. She speaks primarily Spanish at home, and this is only her second year in an English-only environment. Before meeting her, I was told that she is a very struggling reader. In fact, literacy was becoming such a challenge for her that her teacher has been considering referring her for Special Education services, which would only be appropriate if she has a learning disability. I was eager to work with this student and see what I could uncover about her literacy development and abilities.

Our first meeting was a couple of weeks ago. As she started to read her “just right” books, which were short simple-predictable texts, I realized she was not paying any attention to the print. All of her interpretations and meaning were drawn directly from the images. My efforts to engage her with the print were unsuccessful. Then we read the book Siete Ratones Ciegos (Seven Blind Mice) by Ed Young, which is a pretty complex story for a first grader to follow. She was super excited to read a book with me in Spanish, and was really engaged from the start. As we read, I asked her at various points to retell the story, discuss/analyze particular events, predict what would happen next. Her responses blew me away. Not only could she completely understand the story and retell it with total accuracy, but she made thoughtful, detailed predictions, mostly in Spanish. By the end, she identified the main points of the story and retold her favorite parts. Then we read Sneetches by Dr. Suess, an even more complex text, this time in English. Again, she could comprehend the entire story, analyze what I had read in connection to pictures, and make detailed (and shockingly accurate) predictions about the story. She has never read Sneetches, or any other story by Dr. Suess. This one thirty-minute interaction completely destabilized the assumption/suspicion that her literacy struggles are due to a learning disability.

During our second meeting, we created our own I See book. It started with “My name is ___ and I see many things. / Mi nombre es ___ y yo veo muchas cosas.” Each following page repeated “I see ___. / Yo veo ___.” in English and Spanish, followed by the name of an animal that matches a picture for her to draw. For example, one page said “I see a cat. / Yo veo un gato.” By the end, she was reading both the English and Spanish accurately. Her confidence was heartwarming—when we returned to her classroom, the first thing she did was run up to her teacher to read the story we created together (again with near total accuracy). She can read! ¡Ella puede leer!

This experience has led me to realize how important our role as Advocates can be. Without someone to talk with this student in her native language and to discover her incredible ability to comprehend very complex texts, it would be very easy to assume that she has a learning disability. Without someone to tell her how cool it is that she can speak and read and write in two languages—to validate her bilingualism, her culture, her native language—it would be easy for her to view herself negatively in relation to her peers. As an Advocate for our students, we must ensure a growth mindset, both in the perceptions others (colleagues, parents, peers…) hold/carry of our students, and in the perceptions our students hold/carry of themselves.

Teaching is a Poem.

https://i1.wp.com/www.askart.com/AskART/photos/BON20110524_68169/108.jpg

A Walk in the Park II by Wosene Worke Kosrof, 2004