As the school year comes to an end I reflect on my experience as a first time ‘Kindy Mum’. My reflection is in part drawn from my practice as a preschool educator.
In my practice, I am currently exploring how I can listen to the children’s ideas and understandings of their world through simply being present, slowing down and tuning in. A discussion titled: “Presence as a dimension of early childhood professional practice” (Goodfellow, 2008) along with the idea of: ‘Caring Presence’ (Covington, 2003; Goodfellow, 2008) has informed my investigations. However, the practices of: “tuning in”, “slowing down” (Goodfellow, 2008) and trusting my sense of intuition were confirmed for me when I read Anne Stonehouse’s blog titled: “Just be”(2015). Stonehouse spoke about the importance of educators “being with” the children giving our full attention to the moment we are in –to enjoy the moment and not feel that every single conversation and interaction has to always be turned into an “educational experience” (Stonehouse, 2015, para. 6).
My interest in the gesture of being present in the preschool room has opened a space for new understanding about my experience as a first time ‘kindy mum’. As parents will know, there are numerous questions and concerns that we have – especially when our children embark on a transition like beginning school. Some of these we ask outwardly to our children but some we hold inside of ourselves as more personal thoughts.
I had many of these inner questions:
Is my daughter happy at school?
How is she getting on?
Does she have friends to play with?
There were also the questions that I asked my daughter:
How was school today?
What did you do?
Who did you play with?
Was it fun?
To which I received answers like: “I don’t know” or “nothing” or “I can’t remember”– or simply silence.
After one or two attempts of asking these questions I wondered how I could understand what this new experience was like for my child? Then the light bulb moment happened during an after school play date that my daughter was having with her friend. As the two girls played, I could hear the hum of imaginative play coming from the next room. I listened and heard through the depth and richness of their play the answers I had been seeking to my questions:
“Imagine, I was the teacher and you were the child…”
“Pretend, we were at assembly and I was … then the bell rang and we had to line up…”
Through their play the two girls had important work to do; their play was a vehicle to process the new experiences of beginning school. Asking many questions was unnecessary, instead being there to create a space dedicated to the purpose of play was critical because it gave authentic answers to my questions.
As an educator and parent, the act of slowing down -challenging as it can be at times- was essential because through this I could consciously listen and really ‘be with’ the children to understand their viewpoint.
In the preschool context, when I work with the children through this gesture of slowing down, I have observed that my interactions are different. I interact in a way that allows me to see the children’s play from an alternative vantage point – one that brings new insight about their perspective of the world. By being quietly alongside or near the play, I am available to the children but not in an obtrusive way. I can listen calmly and quietly to the children’s play and learn from what it shows. This would be my advice to new ‘kindy parents’ be near and simply listen. You will be amazed and surprised by the insights you gain about your child’s new experiences simply through ‘stepping back’ rather than ‘stepping in’!
Covington, H. (2003). Caring Presence Delineation of a Concept for Holistic Nursing. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 21(3), 301-317.
Goodfellow, J. (2008). Presence as a Dimension of Early Childhood Professional Practice. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 33(1), 17-22.
Stonehouse, A. (2015, March 7). Just Be [web log post]. Retrieved from http://thespoke.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/just-be/