Leaning in to observe children at work is a sacred time. We get to see the evolution of their thinking unfold, as they grow more aware of their sense of autonomy, and power. One of the happiest moments in the classroom is when students come to know something on their own. Their facial expressions change when that blessed “Aha!” moment happens. This is when they realize they’ve learned something new. Teachers who have a ”light touch” when it comes to delivering instruction know how to support students just enough. Read this exchange from teacher to student:
“How do I spell the word trade?” a second grade boy asks.
“Try it three ways.” I say as I place a Post-It in front of him.
Observation in Action
The first time he writes, t-r-ae-d – note that he knows how vowel teams work
The second time he writes, t-r-a-d and mumbles “No, that’s not it.” – note that he understands how closed syllables typically work.
The third time he looks at the first attempt, he looks at the second, “OH! A broad smile spreads across his face, and says as he writes it, “t-r-a-d-e!”
I say, “See, doesn’t that feel great you figured it out on your own!” He smiles and nods his head in agreement.
When teachers come into a child’s learning process with a set agenda we miss opportunities. When we pose an open ended prompt like “Try it three ways” we leave the work up to the student. It is better for the student, and for us. The student grows more confident and we get a window into their learning process. It’s a beautiful thing to be both a teacher and a learner at the same time.