Friday, 12 June 2015

worth a thousand words

I have been slow to commit my thoughts to print these days. It's not that I'm less reflective, if anything, I'm more so. I've several posts saved in draft form as they unfold slowly but resist fully opening, like an acorn needs a cold winter or a squirrel's help before it will release its seed to sprout. It's that from my first early posts when I managed to get out an idea in a few paragraphs, I've developed a habit of exploring the connections between my thoughts. One idea leads to a theme in my head or to a problem I've been pondering, and next thing I know I've lost 3 hours and I've written a chapter, not a page. It's that intriguing image of Loris Malgauzzi's I relate to, that "tangle of spaghetti" which represents learning so much better than a linear trajectory.

Happily though there are also flashes, moments that help focus or reframe the stream of consciousness, like a beam of light pierces through a cloudy sky. Those are the "aha" moments, ones in which mistakes are seen, gaps in thinking revealed, or sparks created that may ignite a fire. Tonight I saw one of those sparks in my Twitter stream, thanks to this tweet from Kristine Mraz:

I was immediately intrigued. I let Kristine know I wanted to share her idea, and that it made me curious about how I might find such an image for this year for me. How might I sum up a year of embracing outdoor pedagogy and risky play; a year in which adopted we a puddle, spent hours exploring the creek, expressed our creative and wondering selves through ice experiments, and looked closely at the intimate relationships between ourselves and our living environment? I thought of photos of the students rolling down our favourite hill, laughing as they bumped and wobbled down the grassy slope. I thought of one student leaping over the painted alphabet road, seeming to catch air. I thought of our fall exploration, altogether under the oak trees tossing handfuls of leaves in the air and burying each other under leaf piles. I thought of sledding and snow fort building days, seeing friendships blossom with newfound collaboration in the snow. I thought of my teaching partner Pooneh seeming like the Pied Piper, leading a merry band of boot-wearing kids out to the deepest mud puddle on the yard, including the picture she captured that became our latest class twitter banner picture. Some of the pictures I wanted to use were lost in translation - blurring or cropping the expressions on faces removed the drama or joy contained (as promised to families, no identifying features such as faces or names are shared outside of the classroom).

In a matter of minutes, I scrolled through the year's photos looking for "the one" to share with Kristine. Thinking of how many others in our PLN might welcome the challenge, I asked if I might share her tweet. She agreed, and we came up with a hashtag for the project.

These pictures (the ones I considered before finding it) below were all moments that were telling of themselves, but also brought with them the force of the inquiries that unfolded during or because of those moments. I could see the theories in action, and recall the words or sounds that went along with the images captured.

 I found the photo, the one that grabs my eye and tells so many things about our class, about the girls in the picture and how they approach learning. Here is #theonepic for me:

In order to share the photo I had to blur the face, which sadly removed the most delightful expression of anticipation. Nonetheless I see this image and I can't help but smile at all I see: the joyful embrace of full-body experiential learning, the kinetic energy in the jump, the planning that went into the test (the girl with the umbrella had raced inside to retrieve it after discovering the displaced water could reach all the way up to her face), the excited anticipation of the other girl awaiting the impact, the theories at work, the pleasure of sharing. It was for me a "the decisive moment" as outlined by the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Looking at how learning unfolds in our classroom, I see the winding river and many branching steams that have resulted from our following the curriculum that emerges from our collective and individual interests, knowledge, and discoveries. It isn't surprising to me that so many of the photos I picked, therefore, contain movement. We are an early years classroom full of wonder and observation. Discoveries are celebrated. Mistaken ideas are shared, talked over, wondered about. We relish the noisy, boisterous, silly, surprising, messy play that results in and from engaged learning. My partner and I do plan experiences and bring materials to share, but most importantly, what we do is seize the moment, and share it.

I see that my early preamble (at the top of the post) didn't mean I wouldn't, once I began writing, experience the customary unraveling of the "tangle of spaghetti". Indeed, the idea of searching though 1000's of images from the year to find one, THE one, to say "this was my year" - daunting and yet illuminating. I've been thinking deeply about documentation this year - as a partner now when I had only ever been sole teacher in a class, as a learner who's looked hard at pedagogical documentation in readings, at conferences, in #reggioPLC chats and during my own reflections at the end of a day. So I am indeed grateful to Kristine for this unexpected spark. Now I want to hear from you... What do you think? Do you have that "one pic" that you will always think of when you think about this year? Is it a magic moment, a painful time, a breakthrough, a whole-group or single student event? What beliefs do you see reflected in your photos when you go back to find "the one"? Please share, and use the hashtag "#theonepic".

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