"Right Now" Learning
Speaking candidly, not all project times go as planned. And, as a teacher, we are planners. So, when times of learning and engagement do not follow our scope or directions, we may have feelings. We believe in the light of the child and we believe in emergent curriculum, but it doesn't mean it's always easy, and it doesn't mean that we aren't concerned about the outcome. We can sit in our classrooms, feeling the grips of pseudo-control slip from our fingers, and panic about where the lesson is going. The class as a whole may be following expectations, but I'm referring to the control of project time, the direction it was headed, the conversations and meaningful interactions we had arranged. Some days we don't even get into the lesson that was planned because something else comes up that captivates them so completely. This is the call to pause, observe, and dig deep. So, what can we do, but listen.
And that’s what we do here. We let go and allow the children to lead more than they follow. We guide instead of directly instruct. And we do all this so the children feel confident that they can create meaning out of the world of possibilities in front of them. So often (read: daily) children push us out of our comfort zones and that’s a good thing because, in doing so, they ensure that their learning experience is meaningful to them. That is far more valuable than peace of mind. Childhood is a special time where this kind of messy learning is possible. It wouldn’t be right to take that away and replace it with well planned direct instruction simply because that’s how adults think. When children are doing their best learning, it is always messy. It’s messy looking on the outside but inside their brains' endless neural pathways are being connected and new ones are being sparked! Working with tiny humans — as a parent or a teacher — requires us to be brave. We must be brave enough to embrace the spontaneous, while remaining consistent. We must have the courage to harness those spur-of-the-moment opportunities, even though it might throw off the plan of the day. Those moments are their life right now, not the world we are preparing them to enter later. The truth is, these children have no concept of “later” or “one day." Developmentally speaking, their brains are not there yet. They understand that a butterfly is emerging from its chrysalis and they want to know more. So the teacher's plan takes a back seat and we spend as much time as they want observing nature at work before their very eyes.
Right now, they come to a school where curiosity is celebrated, whimsical ideas are encouraged and possibilities are endless. They deserve to see that their interests matter, that their ideas have value and that their words are important. The time will come in their educational journey when those whimsical ideas take a back seat to pre-programmed curriculum. Classrooms where their seats are assigned and their day is broken up into periods per subject and taking unscheduled time to investigate an impromptu curiosity simply isn’t plausible. There is a time and place for all of that. But that time isn’t now and that place isn’t preschool. Or prekindergarten. Or even kindergarten. Instead of focusing on plans of what is to come, revel in the “right now” kind of learning your children are doing. It’s interesting how often adults speak about “living in the moment” and “being present.” The magic of childhood is that they are already there. Meet them where they are. They are two and three and four and five. They are intelligent, loving and wildly capable and they are children. Let them be just that.