What does “child-lead” mean?

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    Matthew Wetzler

    Helping Children Thrive in Preschool – What Parents and Teachers Can Do (with Mr. Chazz)

    (the above link is an excellent refresher on intention of the parent/teacher and the experience of the child / interview between Mr.Chazzz and Janet Lansbury).

    Building up to a blurb I would like to eventually write on various definitions of play.. across disciplines and study… and in multiple cultures across the world…

    I have a language fixation that makes it quite difficult to get passed certain words and ideas in our everyday vernacular. When I take a look at certain words that fill parent-blogs, literacy-apps/games targeting children/parents, academic journals, and of course teachers’ daily language (around early childhood development and education) — it sends a neural overload into my brain and my mind goes completely blank. (Blink..blink). I should preface that these words do not originate in the aforementioned circles of people / industries and that they are words that are last-ditch attempt words for our brains to focus in on extremely granular/specific thing. Which is simply to say — they separate one group-think into another group-think and then get co-opted when the first group-think sees the effectiveness of the other group-think and then the whole purpose of the separation loses itself.

    Words like “child-lead” “child-centered” “child-focused” education mean a particular thing. I would like to give an example of a child-lead activity in the day and my reflection on alternative interpretations.

    It is 28 degrees outside and the sun refuses to come out from behind the clouds. Conducting circle time in these conditions is complicated. You need to keep everyone moving majority of the time — it does not need to involve overly-complex play (whatever that means), nor does it mean we are constantly consoling everyone about the weather. Many experiences in life are new to these children and they are all excited to play. I sang a song about making faces. And they all got into making faces – suggestions such as “angry” and “poopy” were made and as a result – we made those faces and then turned to one another’s faces and saw what those looked like. I conjured some experiences the children might feel at home — and asked them to make faces. And they did. However; I really wanted to keep it up. I brought in a dinosaur for the children to hide in a scavenger hunt. The instructions were brief, but ultimately they worked in groups of three to hide the object. And then we all went searching for it. Three children worked very hard together, all holding a leg of the dinosaur, and moved around the meditation garden in search for a pleasant home for the creature in the leaves. The other children excitedly closed their eyes and did not peak! Everyone seemed to be engaged and internally motivated to participate.

    Upon reflection… no matter what… this was all extremely structured play. In this moment I perceived the image of the child as an automaton that could benefit from additional binary coding – of collaboration. In this moment “child-centered” was the thread I used to partially delude myself. The way I defined “chid-centered” in that moment was simply — if they were not tempted by the collected activity — then hastily shift gears and end circle early… No matter how you shake it — circle time is time of structure. Songs, commands, and demands for a particular grouping and sit-down adventure to be had is teacher-directed. There is definitely an element of “child-centered”, but to what end? In this instance I took “child-centered” to mean to arrive at a collaborative goal — in an extensive circle time. Short and sweet! In the cold and grey weather – there is nothing as impactful than the individual exploration of the image of the strong child using opportunities to individually choose individual exploration for themselves and/or the opportunity to collaborate with others.

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Matthew Wetzler.
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