My contribution focuses on navigating authentic relationships with young children whose well being depends on human connection.
Tell us about your idea
When we put relationships first, everything else changes. This is not a new idea (Vygotsky's et. al. developmental theories are found in most progressive views of education) but becomes a much greater challenge in an environment that puts distance between children’s peers and teachers. Online group meetings and traditional lessons tend to put relationships in the background. My proposal would include one-to-one conversations with children and their parents to understand the child’s life including their personal passions and interests. Using that knowledge teachers would design curriculum with open parameters for children to read, write and talk about the things that interest them most. The reading and writing that children and families already do together would be integrated into the school curriculum creating more time and fewer layers for families to navigate. Teachers would be working with individuals and very small groups of children who are like minded and working on similar projects. This idea requires us to abandon the adult constructs of school that limit choice and freedom, both of which lead to stronger engagement. When you approach learning with a student-centered stance, the relationship has to be strong. The teacher is doing more listening, more coaching and working to connect the child to the required curriculum rather than forcing the child to connect with pre-conceived lessons worksheets and random assignments. A quote from the attached article:
“While maintaining the formal relationship between students and teachers, teaching through relationships, when done well, recognizes the human stories of the learners themselves (they are not blank slates), as well as that of the teacher. It is an approach that embraces our complex identities, biographies, and the stories we bring that serve to humanize the subjects we teach.”
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.
My educational career spans 35 years as a teacher, administrator and consultant. I finished my career at the Buffett Early Institute under the executive leadership of Dr. Samuel Meisels who has been an inspiration in the field for decades. As a retired educator I have currently been watching my young grand children going through worthless activities each day since COVID began that have no connection to their lives. It’s excruciating and unnecessary. The ONLY thing that matters is making human connection as authentic as possible. It has always been crucial and is even more so now.