encounters. Becoming a keen observer is a way to learn child development, to
find curriculum ideas, and meet requirements for assessing outcomes. It’s also a
way to keep from burning out in a stressful job. The Art of Awarenessoffers you a
series of activities to develop yourself toward that end.
Using This Book
This book begins with a series of study sessions designed to heighten your obser-
vation skills. These chapters differ from other texts on observing, because they are
designed to help you learn to really see children, not for the purposes of analyz-
ing or doing anything to or for them, but simply to value who they are and the
experience of childhood. The study sessions offer you activities to help you
replace what you hope to see, any labels or preconceptions you might have, with
a simple appreciation of the descriptive details of what you are actually seeing.
We all observe subjectively and with the filters of our own experiences and values.
The first three study sessions offer foundational ideas and practical strategies
to heighten your self-awareness, because the more aware you become of influences
on your ability to hear and see, the closer you get to objectivity. These sessions
are followed by a series of chapters focusing your study on specific aspects of
childhood. Again, you will be asked to let go of your adult agenda or teacher urge
to dosomething with what you are seeing, replacing this with the goal of really
seeing what’s there. In the Buddhist tradition this is referred to as mindfulness.
With these study sessions under your belt, the remaining three chapters of
this book will offer you ideas and strategies for using your observations, getting
organized and developing a documentation system for yourself, and finally, mak-
ing your observations visible to others.
Throughout all the chapters of the Art of Awareness are photographs and
observation stories, often with transcriptions of children’s conversations. These
will be as valuable to you to study as the text itself. You will also find examples
of teachers’ self-reflections and communications with the children’s families to
give you a picture of how observations canbe used.
At the end of each chapter you will find a list of resources for further study
when time permits. These include authors who are artists and naturalists, as well
as practicing teachers and college instructors. They offer opportunities to further
your thinking, sharpen your skills, and nourish your spirit. Ultimately, these
resources and the way of being with children promoted in The Art of Awareness
should enhance your life far beyond your job.
Living in the details of the human spirit leads to more mindfulness, liveli-
ness, and overall pleasure in our lives. If we take the time to notice, each child
offers us a glimpse of something more promising in the world. When we make
what we value and notice more visible to ourselves and to others, it becomes a
resource for change. We create an active vision for becoming individuals and a
collective culture that holds children and childhood as sacred and worthy of our