Below is my reflection for this week (I know it’s only Wednesday, but learning doesn’t only happen at the end of the week). The incident I discuss here was a side issue in many ways, and just one of a couple of triggers that have made me think hard about the power dynamic between teacher and student in a way I hadn’t fully appreciated before.
Today I learned how it felt to be wrongly accused of not paying attention in class. Having worked in elearning for a number of years, I try hard to keep all of my notes electronically, so that they can be tagged, categorised, sorted and searched. I can type quickly and insert photos and figures into my notes in a format that I have found is successful for me and has been refined over a number of years. In a session today my beloved iPad ran out of charge and so I used my iPod to make notes. This looks the same as an iPhone and is connected to the Internet but does not have the mobile phone capability. The speaker assumed that I was texting while she was talking, and was understandably irritated and told me to stop. I showed her that I was taking notes and she apologised.
This incident made me think about the power dynamics of teacher and student and reminded me of some reading I did this week in preparation for our observations of children during our first school placement. Nutbrown (1996) suggests that educators have a responsibility not to judge children:
‘If educators observe children carefully and thoughtfully with wide eyes and open minds they will be showing the children the respect they deserve as people and as learners’ (Nutbrown, 1996, p.52)
So, by acknowledging that the child has complex behaviours that may be hidden to the observer if we seek only to see what we think we know, rather than what is actually presented to us, we can respect the child’s achievements.
Having experienced the feeling of powerlessness when my behaviour was misunderstood, it brought home the relevance impartial observation. It showed me that I must afford the children I teach the respect they deserve by not bringing my own assumptions to bear on my interactions with them. I recognise that this will be hard to achieve. However, today’s practice session on focused and objective observations of children combined with the realisation that I will be doing this for real next week in my first teaching placement was a wake up call. I hope that I can begin to take steps towards having ‘wide eyes and an open mind’.
NUTBROWN, C., 1996. Wide Eyes and Open Minds – Observing, Assessing and Respecting Children’s Early Achievements. In: C. NUTBROWN, ed, Respectful educators, capable learners : children’s rights and early education. London: Paul Chapman, pp. 44-55.