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A Classroom Mistake

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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kindergarten classroom

I've been thinking about mistakes in the classroom...mostly the ones I make. The first one that comes to mind happened when I was teaching first graders. I had put up a wonder wall and received lots of great questions and wonders. One day, when reading some of the wonders in our group, I read a great question about rainbows - and then I proceeded to answer it instead of leading the group in ways to discover the answer. I realized that mistake as I drove home. I'd missed a great opportunity to lead children in discovering their own answers to questions.

I've made spelling mistakes and factual mistakes in the classroom. I've tried things that just didn't work or that just didn't interest the children like I thought it would.

I think about how to take advantage of mistakes when I make them - showing the children that we all make mistakes and mistakes help us learn. I think about how plan to avoid general mistakes. I think about how to laugh when I make them and how to encourage when kids make them. Making mistakes is a great way to learn. So often, children are afraid to be wrong, to make mistakes. But I hope to create classrooms that welcome mistakes and use them for more learning.

But when I think about big teacher mistakes I could make in the classroom, I come back to the mistake of not trying new things. I can get really comfortable in my classroom and in my way of doing things. I like when things feel comfortable. But if I always do things the same way without evaluating why I'm doing it - that's a mistake. If I only do something because it worked last year or the past however many years and don't filter what I'm doing against the characteristics of my current class - that's a mistake. If I don't listen and look at the kids I have when I'm planning and when I'm teaching - that's a mistake.

Of course, if I decide to jump on the latest trend in the classroom and don't weigh what I'm doing and why I'm doing it - that's a mistake. Just being novel isn't a good enough reason to bring things into my classroom. It must connect with my kids and our classroom community. The best tool is the one that fits the children and my own philosophy. That enhances and furthers our community. Any tool - the latest and greatest or the tried and true - that's used "just because" can be a mistake.

I love consistency - and so do young children. I love new things - and so do young children. But one of the biggest mistake I can make is to be oblivious. Not noticing my kids and their likes and interests. Not seeing their strengths and their areas of needed growth. Not seeing areas where I need to grow or change. Teaching as if what matters most is my needs and my comfort.

Why am I thinking about all of this? I'm wondering if I've fallen into a rut with my teaching. I do pay attention to what my church kindergarten kids like and want and need. But things seem very lax lately. I'm not really working much to prepare and plan. Maybe I've become very efficient at it...but it seems like there's something else that may be missing. It's more like I'm going through the motions more than really preparing to teach that group of kids. And if that's true, that's a really big mistake.

How can I (we) evaluate and avoid this mistake?

--Evaluate each thing that I'm doing in the classroom. Look at it with fresh eyes. Answer: "Why am I doing this? Why am I doing it this way?"

--Closely and deeply think about my children. What do they like? When are they excited? How can I push their ideas a little farther?

--Check out new ideas. (Maybe scroll through Pinterest or my favorite blogs.) Choose something that seems interesting and will connect with my kids. 

It's spring. Maybe this is the best time for me to make a new effort to make a fresh interesting classroom. And not make a mistake of just going through the motions. After all, my kids deserve better than just the motions.

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Scott has been an early childhood educator for 30 years. He has been a preschool center director and preschool ministry leader in a church. He has taught elementary school. He developed and edited curriculum for a religious publisher for 15 years. Currently, Scott is a freelance curriculum writer and editor, a workshop leader, and a school volunteer. In addition to his blog, Brick by Brick, he writes for the collaborative blog Pre-K and K Sharing (http://prekandksharing.blogspot.com) and works as editor for Pre-K Pages (pre-kpages.com).

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Guest Thursday, 20 July 2017