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 observer of young children reminds us that what might seem ordinary
at a superficial glance is actually quite extraordinary. In a class she taught,
early childhood author Elizabeth Prescott compared a string of ordinary
moments for a child 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 as wonderful to us as others. They
are the real challenges to our vision. Sometimes these children almost require
us to use a magnifying glass to see what is really there. Taking the time for
deeper glimpses into the play, work, and thinking of challenging children
makes our job one 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 difficult chil-
dren. One of the goals of this book is to help you develop the ability to notice
details and adopt different perspectives. Bringing liveliness and enthusiasm
to your work life is another.
Listening, Observing, and
Documenting Is a Pedagogy
When 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 profession. We strive to make childhood visible and valued
for the ways that it can enrich our humanity and contribute to our collective
identity. To bring this transformation about, we need a pedagogy (a way of
thinking about learning and teaching) that mirrors our vision for children.
We don’t want to promote one that exists in the popular culture. We need to
move away from commercially packaged activities. We need to 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 check-
lists to see what is going on with the children themselves. Teachers who sub-
scribe to a pedagogy like this come from a place of curiosity. They believe in
children’s capabilities and know that they are engaging in a process that is not
static; it’s unfolding.
The benefits of this approach are far-ranging. Moving children into the
center of our focus teaches us more about child development. We begin to