Ever wondered how the way the classroom is set out impacts on children’s experience of being in school, indeed of their learning?
Could you move the chairs and tables around? Are the chairs comfortable? Could the children be responsible for what is up on the walls? What about children creating learning dens?
Heard a great presentation today from a group of students who were exploring how we can create meaningful opportunities for children in school. They focused on children’s participation in shaping their classroom. What stood out was the extent to which it was so easy to identify barriers that could stop us, as adults, giving children a voice on shaping the classroom.
There are a number of schools and educational approaches that highly value investing in ensuring the classroom space is ‘child friendly’, but it was really exciting to hear about projects in which individual teachers had decided to ‘just give it a go’ and to try out involving children in shaping the classroom.
Indeed, maybe it is just as easy to come up with a solution to the list of challenges that we could place in the way of us engaging children – ‘just give it a go’.
So – ‘give it a go’!
(More on the themes in this post to follow)
The connection between theory and practice and practice and theory has been an interest of ours right from the early days of EquippingKids.
I remember hearing about a school who decided to invite a group of senior academics to come in and view what was going on – to get their considered thoughts and feedback. However, the most striking responses from the day were along the lines of – ‘is this what actually happens in school?’, or ‘oh it’s great to actually visit a classroom’.
Yesterday a new book ‘Contextualising Childhoods’, which I co-edited with friend and colleague Sally McNamee at King’s, Western University Canada – was released. It looks at that relationship between theory and practice. But I would argue it does more than that, it invites the academic to learn from the practitioner – as the reader is encouraged to consider how practice might inform theory.
This stands out in a section of the book that looks at themes around children and death. Not a warm and cosy topic but a reality, at different extents, for all families. This is brought into sharp focus through a discussion on children within a hospice, as they and their families manage a life limiting condition. Here a practitioner shares her experience and through this highlights the extent to which children’s voices are and are not heard.
- How well do we communicate with the child who is a non-verbal communicator?
- To what extent do our assumptions about their physical condition impact our thinking on their competence and therefore adult efforts to discuss their illness?
- To what extent are voice, choice and participation relevant to a child who has a terminal condition?
By combining theory and practice and continuing allowing both to speak to each other our ability to effectively answer such questions must grow, and with it our ability to improve children’s everyday lives.