The intention of our blog posts is to build connections between Opal School's pedagogy and what this actually looks like and sounds like in the evolving, organic life of the classroom. We will share images, stories, dialogues from the classroom, as well as, our work as Teacher-Researchers – our observations, questions, and reflections. Our hope in sharing these windows into the classroom is to not only give you a sense of the children's thinking and experiences, but also how it connects to what Opal School values and what guides our work with young children and why it is important.
In just three days, we have been amazed and inspired by what the children have shown us using the incredible gifts they bring with them when they walk through the door, in their bold beginnings to create connections within their new community. It is one thing to know that human beings have an inborn desire to tell stories, to see/hear and be seen and heard by others—to connect, and that we learn about ourselves through the relationships we have with people, with ideas, materials and the world. It is quite another to bear witness each year to how children do this so seamlessly, skillfully and joyfully, using the power of play, imagination, storytelling, empathy and asking questions.
Before the children had arrived at school, we prepared materials and environments that we thought would support their work of connecting in these ways. Now that they have arrived, we are reminded by the beauty of their work with one another, of the importance of our role as teachers in giving the children the gift of time for these connections to unfold and to be paying attention—listening to what they are telling us—about their stories and who they are as individuals and in relationship to others. The gift is returned in the form of a reminder to us that we have much to learn from children and their incredible capacity to connect with courage, openness, intelligence, empathy and grace.
Here is just a sampling of what we heard this week:
We heard children making connections through sharing stories with one another.
“I saw a shark swimming above me, it was following me.”
“I saw a scuba diver at the aquarium, he was holding an octopus.”
The children connected through asking questions about each other’s stories for more information.
“But I have a question, what is a Bat Ray?”
We heard many generous invitations to come play.
“Would you like to play babies with us?” “There’s room in this house for you.” “Do you want to build an aquarium with me?”
We saw children connecting through sharing common interests – babies, trains, block-building,running.
We heard children connecting through sharing their love of books.
“I have a story about a monkey and it’s so funny, he takes the boy’s balloons.” “Oh! I have that story at my house too!”
We heard children connecting about each other's gardens and what was growing. “When I go home, I love to plant flowers. Maybe if you come to my house, you can plant with me.”
“I like planting! I planted two trees at my house from Home Depot where some old trees used to be.”
We saw children enter into other’s imaginary worlds through listening and action.
“I’m Buzz Lightyear, my jetpack is broken! I need a screwdriver to fix my wings!”
“I have a screwdriver! There, now they’re fixed! You can fly!”
“We’re making pies. Do you want to buy some? What kind of pie do you want?”
“There’s drinks too! Here, do you want a drink?”
"Ice cream for sale! What flavor do you want?"
"Do you have vanilla?'
“My stallion is fast, it can jump! I’m not afraid of my stallion because I don't lose control of her.”
We heard children connecting through empathy and offering support.
“We can give you the pieces you need. What animal do you need next?”
As one child at the easel heard another say, “I want to paint too. Where can I paint?"”
He responded, “You can paint with me! You can have the red one.”
“Can I play too?”
“Sure! Can you help find the match?”
They made room for one another to join in. "Come for a ride on my motorcycle, my space ship. Come into my house–there's room for you."
While they connected with one another, they also were connecting to new materials as they explored myriad possibilities.
These connections are a starting place for building a strong learning community. We are excited to see how continued connections will help us to create a community where each of us holds a place where we can fully share ourselves, our gifts and our passions–to discover what suprises are waiting for us as we learn more about ourselves and through knowing and being known by one another.