When we neglect to see who children really are, we deprive ourselves of
deeper sources of delight. We miss the opportunity to witness the profound
process of human development that is unfolding before our eyes. Becoming a
careful listener and observer of young children reminds us that what might seem
ordinary at a superficial glance is actually quite extraordinary. A string of ordi-
nary moments for a child has been compared by Elizabeth Prescott, observer
extraordinaire, to beads on a necklace, each one unique, yet related to the others,
combining to create an unfolding work of wonder.
To be sure, some children don’t appear to us as wonderful as others. They are
the real challenges to our vision, sometimes requiring a magnifying glass to help
us see what is really there. Whatever the stress and difficulties of our work with
particular children, taking the time for deeper glimpses into their play, work, and
thinking makes our jobs ones of continual exploration, invention, and flexible
thinking. If we can keep our focus, we will get through the rough and bumpy
times, past our blind spots, to find some new perspectives on even the most dif-
ficult children. Developing the ability to notice details and adopt different per-
spectives is a goal of this book. Bringing liveliness and enthusiasm to your work
life is another.
Documenting Is a Pedagogy
If we begin to value who children are, not just what we want them to be, a shift
happens in the way we think about learning and teaching. Our jobs become more
engaging and fulfilling. We also begin to envision a larger purpose for our profes-
sion—making childhood visible and valued for the ways in which it can enrich
our humanity and contribute to our collective identity. To bring this transforma-
tion about, we need a pedagogy(a way of thinking about learning and teaching)
that mirrors our vision for children, not the existing one of the popular culture.
We need to move away from commercially packaged activities and make the time
to develop curriculum collaboratively with our coworkers, the children, and their
families. We must focus our attention away from the clocks and checklists to see
what is going on with the children themselves. Teachers who subscribe to a peda-
gogy of this nature come from a place of curiosity, believe in children’s capabili-
ties, and know that they are engaging in a process that is unfolding, not static.
The benefits of this approach are far ranging. Moving children into the cen-
ter of our focus teaches us more about child development, the learning involved
in self-chosen play, and the components of a curriculum shaped around child-
hood. Looking closely, we can see the influence of cultural patterns and learn
more about ourselves, our preferences, our biases, and our blind spots. Discussing
our observations with coworkers and the children’s families helps us to see things
from different perspectives, allowing each of us to transcend the limitations of
our own points of view. We create a collective context for mutual respect and
learning from each other.