Facilitator or Content Provider? What kind of teacher are you?
In my FB group The Original Learning Approach I shared the below quote and it stimulated some really interesting dialogues... not least about the complexity of sharing quotes out of context and how they can then be interpreted to inspire but also in less positive ways that could impact children negatively despite the best intentions of educators.
For me this quote implies that if we ONLY provide content, ie, see the child as an empty vessel that needs filling rather than providing the right support, the right environment on the premise that children are not empty vessels but are rich in their own experience and knowledge, that they have been constructing throughout their entire short lives.
We provide the opportunity for them to learn
As a play responsive educator I find out what the children already know through observing their play, and dialogues together, then provide experiences that exposes them to opportunities to expand what they know, or discover new...
It is a discovery for them - self chosen... but I have provided the circumstances that make it accessible for them to discover.
I think the concept of providing content is a tricky way of expressing this and makes it easy to misconstrue that facilitating means no content is being provided...
Clearly, adults provide content based on the children’s interests, and awareness of what the children already know and how the children learn and play.
We also need to ask ourselves,
how much the children are aware of their own content provision when it comes to those adults who say it is the child and not the adult that provides the content.
Do the children know how much of their interests is impacting the direction of the content? Are they directly informing the adult of the content, or is the adult interpreting the children's play etc to create content... what is the difference practically?
Are the children, if they are aware of their rights to provide content, also aware of their responsibility that the content is inclusive?
With rights always comes responsibility -
and often that is forgotten - rights and responsibility should be balanced - so I always like to reflect on whether the children are ready to engage with their rights in symbiosis with me providing them the scaffolding to be able to take responsibility for using those rights. It’s no point me allowing children the right to do or say whatever they want if they lack the responsibility to respect or include others, and themselves... I had a group that wanted to decide everything that we did, and I welcomed them to the process of planning our weeks, but when they realised how hard it was to make plans so that everyone could participate fairly they handed the reigns back to me with the trust that I would be responding to their play, and always listen to their opinions and suggestions. Rights are often taught in an individualistic way and divorced from responsibility - which might account for the divided-ness in society these days...
It’s a dance, I believe, of providing content based on what we learn from the children, and ensuring children feel brave and secure enough to share their opinions and suggestions with me and that they have space to provide content with each other - which happens naturally in play...
A well choreographed pedagogy is co-created. Multiplicity. Complexity. Diversity. Not content or no-content. Not facilitate or provide.
Teachers facilitate content - after all we provide the content of the room - the resources - the amount of time, the schedule, the permission...
facilitating the content so the children can adequately, appropriately and joyfully explore, discover and be creative with it - rather than providing content that the children must consume at a certain rate and certain time and certain level of difficulty without regard to the child’s ability or way of understanding and learning about the world...
For me it is about learning to stop making lessons "playful" but to start understanding play... being able to see what learning is happening and developing a relationship between the play and the learning.
My role is as a pedagogue. But I value play and the child. I developed the Original Learning Approach because I felt frustrated that teaching was viewed as something bad that did not value play, and play was often not given the value it deserves and was seen as a break from the learning. Neither of these two point of view fitted with how I was experiencing being a play-responsive educator.
I value and honour play, the child and my role as a pedagogue. I am part teacher, part playworker. I provide content as a facilitator, not forced upon the child, but offered as precious gifts for the children to excitedly open... and sometimes its the wrapping and box that gets played, explored and learned about... and sometimes it's the content... I respond to that reaction.
Fröbel wrote described his blocks and resources as gifts... and I truly appreciate this way of thinking. It is based on respect, reciprocity and gratitude. About giving and receiving. And the best gifts are always those with thought behind them.. not the cost, or flashiness or how in fashion it is (but does not exclude that either), but because there is genuine reflection behind the intention of the gift and why it is offered. (Fröbels Gifts)
I also provide time and space for the children's autonomous play. This play informs me, teaches me, about the children, about childhood, about play, about how they learn, about their language, about the skills they need to evolve their play, the knowledge they need access to develop it further, the resources they need to practice, play, explore, experiment in order to test theories, and discover the new... to learn how to find the sweet spot of curiosity, how to scaffold their interactions, how to provide wonder, the content of books and stories that can inspire them etc etc If the children are not provided with enough time to play, not only does it rob the children of a process to fathom the world and achieve a sense of well-being. I also cheat myself out of becoming a better pedagogue.