This teacher knew her students well. She knew exactly
what they were doing and why. She affirmed the connection
between the eggs and the glue and then redirected the children
to the original project. She wasn’t afraid to say, “I see what you
are doing. It makes sense, but let’s not do it with glue. Let’s get
back to our eggs.” Her guidance assured that the experimenting
was turned from mere experience to learning experience. This
is the confidence Dewey speaks of. It is based on knowledge of
both specific children and the learning process.
Make Sense of the World for Children
Dewey also said that beyond their knowledge of children,
teachers must be willing to tap their general knowledge of
the world to help children make sense of their surroundings
and experiences. This is a challenge for many early childhood
teachers who have often been discouraged from sharing their
knowledge with children.
For example, I was at a statewide gathering of Head Start
teachers who were working toward their Child Development
Associate Credential. As part of the seminar, teachers were
reflecting on the project work they were doing with children.
One teacher, Kathy, talked about her class’s investigation of
winter birds. The children had observed and commented on
the V formation of birds flying above the play area. Their
teachers explained that the birds were going south for the
winter. The children knew that not all birds left New England,
because there were birds coming daily to their bird feeder,
and this launched the class into a project studying the birds
that remained in the area during the winter.
Kathy showed the group some cardinals that the children
had made. They were so realistic that at first no one guessed
they were made from paper plates, painted and feathered.
Several teachers also commented that they looked as if they
had been made by older children.
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