I've been busy interacting during the past month - many workshops, visits to schools, highly diverse groups of people. My head is spinning with ideas and choosing one topic to write about feels impossible this week. So instead, here's a collection of insights from a recent workshop on Powerful Interactions in Tucson. We talked about intentionality during interactions with children and considered the question: As you pause to prepare to be with a child (step 1 Be Present in a Powerful Interaction), what do you think about? I offered the following ideas:
Can you quiet your own static? How do you need to adjust to fit this child? What do you know about this child and how can you use that knowledge to support the interaction? Where is the child working and what is the learning that is possible? For example, in the block area, children may be exploring height, symmetry, balance, or how to represent a specific structure they've seen. At the water table, as they fill things up and empty them out, they may be doing it fast or slow, letting things overflow, fill to the brim. By thinking for a moment about the learning that might be happening, we consider the vocabulary to use and the concepts that may be possible to extend.
Here are some insights from the group:
We can try to read the person we are with as a way to show we are invested in making the interaction work. However, there are so many ways to misinterpret another person's cues. While "reading" is a way to be sensitive, asking questions for clarification is better than jumping to conclusions. For example: Person A may show excitement by lighting up immediately. Person B may need time to process. Person A could easily misread B's quiet response as not being interested or enthusiastic about an idea when in fact B is simply thinking.
When we take the time to observe a child before joining him/her, we have the opportunity to be respectful. For example, pausing to observe before entering the dramatic play area, the teacher can take a moment to observe the children's play. Is there a scenario in action? Who has taken on a role? What props are they using? This brief pause to observe allows you to enter the play in a role, making a comment that extends the scenario. Oh - I see there is something cooking on the stove. It smells divine. What time will you be eating and may I join you? In response to this, a few teachers commented that this was a big aha. They often join children's play and ask - so what's going on? One teacher said - children often say to her, "Can't you tell?"
If we pause to think before we interact with children, we can fit our goals to the child's agenda. I'm wondering if that is true between adults as well.
One administrator had the insight that she often bristles when she sees a teacher simply watching children or sitting quietly beside them. She never realized that perhaps they are observing in order to make an intentional decision about what to say or do.
Over the next week, what do you think about as you prepare to join children? How about adults? What helps us to be intentional in our interactions? Share your comments.