Study Session: Learning to See 29
Practice Creating a Parking Lot
When we observe children, we often have initial responses based on our
own mental filters and values. These can get in the way of really seeing the
importance of what children are doing. It is helpful to acknowledge these first
reactions and then set them aside in a parking lot. You can write these on a
separate page of your observation notes. A sample parking lot for a teacher
watching this child in the photos above might have notes like this:
The boy is using the scissors in the wrong way.
He is goofing around with scissors, trying to get my attention. He
should know better than that.
The scissors are too close to his eyes. I’d better intervene because he’s
going to hurt himself.
Your first reactions may have merit, and safety issues may require you to jump
in quickly to intervene. But unless there is immediate danger, it is important
to notice those first reactions and wait before you get involved. When you
watch closely, momentarily letting go of your first reactions, you can be more
thoughtful about whether to intervene, and if so, how.
Looking over your observation notes from the photo above, decide if any-
thing should be moved to a parking lot away from your descriptive observa-
Review your notes and compare them to the list below. Notice that
the notes are listed in two columns, one labeled Descriptions and the other
Interpretations. When learning to write observation notes, drawing a line
down the middle of your paper and using these two categories keeps you
mindful of when you are describing and when you are interpreting.
In your work with children, the ultimate goal of observing is to deter-
mine the meaning of what is unfolding and to interpret what you see children
doing in the most competent light so you can respond in useful ways. In that
process, it is important to be aware of the differences between the details and
descriptions you gather and your interpretations of the events.