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Reflecting on The Norm

I love staff meeting where educators sit down and discuss the day. I value everyone’s experiences and think about them hours after the meetings. Today, one in particular made me jump from the book I decided to read over dinner and write this to you all. I recently acquired the much anticipated (at least by me) “The Original Learning Approach” book by Suzanne Axelsson. It is a truly inspiring reflective practice in education inspired by Reggio Emilia which explores how children can learn and play naturally and at their own pace and that can be applied to any pedagogical methods, approaches and contexts.

I was continuing my exploration of the book and was at “Interaction and the Norm” on page 119 of the book when I ever reflective mind made and instant connection of what the educators shared today about a particular child and what the book was suggesting.

The teachers shared that today at the water play area a child had been difficult in the way the child shared resources and expressed self. This particular child wanted a specific bucket another child was using at and they an identical bucket that had been offered did not enchant the child in question. More so a tantrum developed and the child ended up scratching an educator. The adults were asking how to approach such situations in the future. Others shared that the child often displays similar behavior in other areas.

The area of the book that I was reading presented a situation in which a cylinder installation created a shadow that when looked at from a specific angle showed a rectangle. It was suggested that the cylinder is how we see the world but the rectangle is the norm. it also stressed that very often we children are being told to view the norm as the only valid option and how seeing the circle is not valid. The book stressed research that proposes we teach children to view the rectangle without giving up the circle.

And as the two, the sharing and the reading, intersected in my mind I could not help but reflect on whether the teachers were seeing the rectangle and the child the circle. In this situation the rectangle would be the expected norm of interaction: the child was expected to share and understand when his/her turn was and be patient and understanding. Could it be that when this was enforced the child lashed and scratched?

And then I further asked myself how could the teachers see the circle but also be aware of the rectangle?

Could the circle be a situation where the identical bucket was not really that identical because it was not being used at the time by the other child. Could it be that it wasn’t about the bucket but rather about the way the child used the bucked in question? Could it be that the child saw a skill he/she didn’t have but was eager to emulate and by having the bucket he/she thought he/she could be just like the other child?

Could it be that by having whatever someone else had was a way to be included and accepted? Or was it that it was a way to copy and work on skills by imitating what the other child was doing?

The book gave me a hint of how we adults should approach this particular experience: “The educators focus on designing an inclusive listening atmosphere rather than demanding everyone be still and quiet”… in our situation demanding seeing and accepting only the norm. And it is through sitting together as educators and discussing such experiences that help us construct an educational environment that is not perfect but is inclusive. I am really proud of the educators and the setting we have.

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