As a follow-up to David Wright’s comments on benign neglect, Tom Hobson, aka Teacher Tom, takes a slightly different angle:
“The longer I've worked with children, the more time I spend sitting and watching. Of course, there's more to it than that, but the sitting and watching remain at the core of what I do. It's a policy of non-interference, of creating space in which children are free to pursue their own interests in their own way. The watching is, of course, partly about keeping them safe and, in certain circumstances, protecting property, but mostly it's about understanding. Usually, when we assert that 'all behavior is communication' we are referring to some sort of misbehavior, but it applies to all behavior, be it building with blocks, hiding treasures, drawing a picture, or running in circles. So perhaps the word 'listening' is better than 'watching,' although it is a listening that is done, as Eleanor Duckworth says, 'with our whole being,' because that's what it takes to understand. When adults don't make the effort to understand, we react to children based upon our fears, assumptions, and prejudices, thereby misunderstanding, which, more often than not, leads to even more misbehavior as the child struggles to be understood.”
In their book From Teaching to Thinking, Margie Carter and Ann Pelo introduce “The Thinking Lens for Learning Together with Children,” noting it “begins with observation. We watch and listen to children as they move through their days, curious about and attentive to the shape and texture of their pursuits.”
Carter and Pelo echo Hobson as they continue, “The process of self-reflection, meaning-making, and responsive planning helps us ‘stop reacting,’ it creates open space—breathing space, thinking space— in which we can consider the meaning of the children’s play instead of leaping into (re)action.”
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