‘Start with the child.’ This was the title of inspiring PYP Coordinator, Edna Sackson’s, blog post. She used this statement to begin her schools’ staff orientation and to highlight their 2017 focus for learning. Her post, sharing the first day of this journey, is inspiring and thought provoking (https://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2017/01/28/start-with-the-child/[https://whatedsaid.wordpress.com%29/). It made me think and ponder why this statement, ‘Start with the child’ is important and how I, as an educator, can strive to understand what this means.
For me as a teacher I feel compelled to smile when I think of the many young children I have had the joy to teach. Start with the child…..Yes, little Zac who could only say “no!” for the first 3 weeks at school. Start with his needs, was he being rude? No, he was just scared and proud. Did he need the same as the other children in the class? No, he needed something unique and different. He needed to feel safe and believed in. Start with the child…….Sophie who arrived with no established mother tongue for learning, she hit other children and cried in despair when her family left her. Was she being selfish and defiant by not trying to speak the language in the class? Was she a nasty child because she hit other children? No, she had already experienced failure and despair from being left in extreme circumstances and she had to develop her awareness of friendship and social connection. She knew loss and hurt. No, she was not a problem child. She was a child who needed a personal connection she could trust, she needed to feel success and she needed to learn specific social skills in a supportive environment. Was this the same as other children? No, Sophie needed something unique and personal to her. EVERY CHILD needs to be seen and recognized as themselves. The only way we can truly do this is by starting with the child.
But what does this mean in the context of developing programmes and bringing staff together with the same understanding? What does this mean when designing curriculum? Starting with the child impacts all elements of a school; reporting, curriculum structure, supporting student passions, staff professional development, policies, developing authentic connections and most importantly documentation. It means developing key shared understandings and terminology. There is a need to delve into what this statement means and how we as educators can articulate it personally and within an organization.
To start with the child, means a shift of understanding and a creativity in education as we no longer fit the child to the curriculum but instead fit the curriculum to the child. This is an important shift to occur and has the potential to allow children to more fully reach their potential whilst also developing their own innate skills to self manage, to explore, to create and direct their own learning.
This is an exciting conversation being had in education, and though there is much to be learned and understandings to develop, it marks an important shift. Educators need to develop shared understandings about how we maintain accountability and documentation, how we ensure children develop skills and how progress is communicated. However, this is a challenge I gladly take up and look forward to learning more about.
I thank the industry for putting this statement out there!