Sunday, October 20, 2013

How can I grow antennae?

One of the most difficult things to learn as a beginning teacher is how to be alert to all the preschoolers at once, how to work with a few, and, simultaneously, have antennae up for all those who are not at your elbow -
where are they?
what are they doing? 
how are they doing? 

Melissa, my Teaching Resident, posed this question to me last week -
"How can I grow antennae?"

I am delighted by Melissa's question because it tells me she sees the essential need for this skill and she is challenging herself to be fully present in her teaching.

For some teachers, "antennae" are instinctive. I think they are instinctive for me.  Even as a young child, I was hyper-sensitive, hyper-aware about others, "watching the crowd," observing.  (Nosey?)

But what if it is not instinctive?
How to learn the skill?

This is our challenge right now.
With 23 active preschoolers, each of us needs to be aware of all the students, all the time.

It is my job to teach her skills like this,
to make my teaching transparent,
to verbalize how,
to guide her,
to create lessons and opportunities for her to learn this essential skill,
in the midst of teaching preschoolers.

So, I am wondering,

How to grow antennae? 
What do I do? 
How did I learn to be alert to everyone?

How do I teach this?

This past week, during our "free choice" center time, when Melissa was able to be in a more passive role, I challenged her to take a mere 5-10 minutes, standing in one place, and get a mental snapshot of where every child was in the classroom and what they were doing at this moment. She had a basic data sheet with all the children's names, where she wrote very brief notes about each child. I asked her to think about -

Why was the child doing whatever he/she was doing?  
What does it tell us about what the child likes or needs?

This very simple task helped Melissa to look past those children who always get teachers' attention, and to take in the whole room, to see everyone.

After school, we reflected together about this brief observation. By stepping back and observing - for mere minutes, only - she noticed so much that will inform our future planning. For example -

- what activities delighted children,
- which children are beginning to form friendships with others,
- who played alone, yet, happily,
- which children had trouble choosing an activity or entering play,
- who seemed to need sensory, tactile stimulation,
- who needed active, moving play,
- what activities were not of interest to anyone, and
- much more.

I think it is marvelous that one only needs a few moments of "antennae" to learn so much!

I have no doubt that I have excited Melissa about how valuable it is to see everyone. I also know that I need to provide many "mini-lessons" with this goal in mind. I realize this understanding and perspective is not going to happen with just one lecture by me or even one opportunity to practice...this "growing antennae" will be our subtext for the next many weeks.

I'm excited about how much more we will learn and do,
working together as a team,
with our antennae up for one and all.

I'm excited that it is our goal together.

1 comment:

  1. I would guess it's connected to metacognition & your idea of having her spend those minutes 'actively' watching put it all into her mind as to what to look for, to note, how to look & become aware, and so on. It is somewhat intuitive, but as you spend time with children (or people, like a sales person), I really believe you learn to "read" the territory. You always make me think, Maureen!