Thursday, August 16, 2018

Big Rocks

Recently I as I flicked through my registration portfolio I was reminded of Stephen Covey's analogy "Big Rocks",  as presented by Wendy Lee in a thought provoking keynote  “Savouring the moment, what does the slow movement mean for early childhood education?” In his analogy Stephen Covey explains that we need to do our big rocks first, back to the basics, prioritise and do those big things (rocks) well - the others will fit in around (the sand).  Want to know more

In recently times I have had many conversations with teachers who are conflicted in their priorities around assessing children’s learning.  I would like to suggest that going back to basics, by writing thoughtful Learning Stories, where the analysis of learning is robust, and shows continuity of learning, is a big rock priority.  Are you putting sand and pebbles in your jar first by minimalising assessment practices?   Learning Stories are the meaningful individual plans that children revisit in their paper-based portfolios each day, they are evidence of your responsiveness to the uniqueness of every child.  

Learning Stories should also be used as evidence of a teachers practice and the growing and stretching of practice in their Inquiry Research, which if we are working smarter not harder, will feed into the Centre Internal Evaluation question. They can also be evidence of the big picture thinking around the Education Council’s six standards for teaching and unpacking of Te Whāriki (2017). They can make evident the teachers collaborative making sense of these new documents. 

To write authentic, meaningful Learning Stories requires teachers to have attachment relationships (at all ages) with children, and reciprocal relationships with families.  This means slowing down to truly be present and listen to children in play.  Margaret Carr,at a recent ELP Lecture Series presentation,suggested “building a portfolio of learning episodes is researching the development of a learner identity”.   Digitalised individual plans that are never referred to, pictures that are open to interpretation and links to TeWhāriki, add little value to the storying of learner identity.  The value of relationships within a community of practice, where every member of that community has a voice is another big rock priority.
Learning stories are also a tool to shape our own professional identity.  Palmer (1998) suggests that not only is character central to teaching, but we teach out of who we are as people.  What teachers do, how willing they are to do it and even to persist, can be best explained by the beliefs they have about themselves and children. Another of Margaret’s provocations was a powerful quote from Tim Ingold, an anthropologist, “Stories overlap, with each telling learning over and touching the next.  So too do the lives of which they tell.  That’s the way they carry on”.  Portfolios will be opened up at 21stcelebrations and shared with future generations, it is our personal responsibility to be at our teacher best, and engage our mind, our heart and our intuition to write stories that will continue to overlap throughout children’s lives.

What are the stories you would like told about each child you write for at their 21st?  Learning Stories that celebrate who that child is as a thinker, a learner and as a citizen of the world.

Franklin Covery.  (24 August, 2017).  Big Rocks.  Retrieved 16 August 2018 from http:/ 
Palmer, P.  (1998).  The courage to teach: exploring the inner landscape of a teachers life.  New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Ingold, T.  (2018). Anthropology and/as Education.  New York: Routledge.

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