This is the first time in twenty-four years that I haven’t been with teachers and kids in September. So what have I been doing as I travel? I spy on kids in the campgrounds. I sit at my picnic table and notice what they do with so much free time on their hands. It is a bit like watching during recess or in the cafeteria when kids don’t know one another – some kids stay to themselves, and others try to make friends. Of course, social distancing makes all of this so difficult.
Just the other night, a boy and his father (that is a guess on my part) parked right next to us. As the dad cooked dinner, this boy watched the other kids in the campground ride bikes around and around the park, yelling back and forth to each other.
His eyes followed the kids, and he seemed to want to join the fun (another assumption on my part.) He rode his bike around the bathhouse and in the common spaces hoping to be noticed. Then he followed a group of kids on his bike down a path. Yet, within 20 minutes, he was back at his campsite sitting by the fire with his dad.
Of course, I don’t know what happened because I was spying, but I would have loved to talk to this boy about what I observed. Perhaps, all of my assumptions are complete rubbish, and he didn’t want to join the group. Perhaps, where he rode was a total coincidence.
However, if he did want to join, I hope he noticed the effort he put forth to connect with others. Even though it didn’t work at this moment, I hope he realized that it sometimes works out when we try to connect with others socially, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Watching this boy helped me remember the importance of kid-watching. I need to put that in my plan book each week and schedule it. I don’t want my assumptions to cause me to make judgments. Instead, I need to stop teaching for just a few minutes each day and watch. Perhaps I will schedule 2-3 minutes at a different time of the day each day of the week. Even if it doesn’t happen each day, planning for it will help me remember its importance. I need to do more of this as I teach online too. Body language comes to us even through the screen. It is crystal clear when a student is not engaged, but the reason they aren’t with us is difficult to determine through a screen.
So much of my learning this summer focused on anti-racist teaching practices. Intentionally watching is one small way I can gain perspectives that I might have missed in the past. These observations will help me notice interactions, ask better questions, and focus my energies to make all kids feel appreciated, connected, and valued. Do you have a system for kid-watching? If yes, let me know how you organize the time.
I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic