The past few weeks I have been an early-childhood-professional-education-networking-junkie. I want to learn about what others are doing around the world that is changing children's lives, and the lives of professionals that share those spaces.
Facebook group about Reggio? Click.
Linkedin group about Nature Education? Click. Join.
Article on Children and Nature Network? Click. Read. Think.
A blog about teaching Mindfulness in education? Click. Read. Think. Reflect... (deep inhale in....exhale. Smile)
I have been "click"ing, joining, following, reading, and requesting all types of EC community networking opportunities. I have no control over who reads this blog, but I can control who I can learn from and become inspired by. And there is sooooo much.
Already, my Facebook is changing to reflect more "trending" posts related to education, beautiful quotes, and meaningful articles on teachers and their classrooms. (Which really, isn't that better than the other crap they try to market to me? I don't know how they think I would like a deal on denim jogging jeans but I don't.)
This one below struck me from the Reggio Emilia Approach Interest Group:
Do the children you work with have AGENCY? Is that something your program nurtures?
What is "agency"? According to Wikipedia, "In the social sciences, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices...One's agency is one's independent capability or ability to act on one's will. This ability is affected by the cognitive belief structure which one has formed through one's experiences, and the perceptions held by the society and the individual, of the structures and circumstances of the environment one is in and the position they are born into."
Agency. Now, I don't think that Wikipedia is the end all be all of citations I should be nodding my head to, but the source wasn't the important essence of the idea [Teachers have the, "is this a valid resource?" drilled into their heads between their Bachelors and their Masters programs]. Forget the Wikipedia reference. Focus on the message!! Nodding my head...Okay. Back to it then.
Agency. I had never heard the word used before in an educational setting. This four sentence post made me pause. Yes, children in my classroom, in my school, do very much have agency. They have a right to move, think, and act independently. They have a right to form their own identity within their space. Their curriculum is designed and effected by what I watch them do, what they are interested in, and what they are thinking about. Then a recent memory popped into my head from this past week: I was organizing a manipulative activity when I heard a young voice call my name to communicate her plans and ideas with me:
Young Voice: Britt? I was thinking about the scooters. We haven't had them out in a while. Do you think we could make a plan about having them out?
I stop what I am arranging blocks and placing multicultural people on the bed I just made for them that I think one of the children will go to once they see the "bunkbeds", then kneel down to her level to give her my full attention.
My response: Sure. What were you thinking we could do with them?
Young Voice: Well. I was thinking we could use our bellies on them. Because I like the way my belly feels on the scooter. But then I was thinking we could maybe have tongs out with them.
Me: Yes. There are so many things we can do with the scooters. We haven't had them out in a while. Let's think together. You mentioned tongs, I wonder what you would do with the tongs?
Young Voice: Well. Hummm. I think. [pauses to look around the classroom. Specifically at our movement and music space, almost like she is reimagining the experience] I think that maybe we could have scooters on the rug. And the buckets out. But with some materials in them. And then we can use the tongs to grab them.
Me: Yes. I do remember that activity. I remember children sitting on their bottoms to move their scooters, and they used the tongs to grab the foam blocks and transfer them from one part of the rug to the other.
Young Voice: Yup! Thats the one! I knew you would know. Now, Britt, can you go write yourself a lil' note so you don't forget?
Me: Sure. That will help me remember.
Was this agency in action? It sounds like it to me. When moments like these happen in my classroom, I feel like I am part of a community of learners. Sure, I am their teacher and I will ultimately decide how many scooters, how many children, and which order they will use materials (Day 1: foam blocks. Day 2 balls. Day 3 Jungle Animals etc). I will remain the facilitator in the space, yet I am not the only planner. My teaching partner and I have 18 other people in our classroom vibrating with their own perspectives, needs, wishes, and desires. Children have independent thoughts, ideas, and the right to develop their own activities as part of what they know to be acceptable and true in their educational experience. And that is just one example of a hundreds I could think of that occur within my school. It is a joy to watch and be part of. For me, but also for them. I wanted to share it with you too.
Brittany Courchesne is an early childhood educator, teacher mentor to teachers in training, public speaker, and blogger.