Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Know Thyself

"Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment."
(Lao Tsu. Tao Te Ching, Sutra 33)

I've been thinking about the idea of observation while I've been at school today, and more specifically, how important the skill of observation is in the context of what we are up to here.

We have been talking about how we "assess" a child's educational path, how we share with parents our observations of their child, their pace, place and progress as a learner. This is a sort of holistic "seeing" we practice: looking at the whole child with equal attention, socially, emotionally, intellectually, physically, spiritually. It means shedding preconceived notions of where a child "should" be according to this or that standard. It means getting down on our knees and being with that child at the level of their own eyes.

And then there is the skill called observation that we model and teach in the classroom. It is the way we "be with" the children, guide them to begin "seeing" each other and the space around them. Today, Anne asked a child to look into the face of a peer and see how they are feeling. Darcy asked another child to stop and look around to see where their hands were needed for clean up. Eddie asks the older children help the younger children tie their shoes. We go outside and look up and around. We color and build and talk about what we see. We come inside and sit in a circle, observing the space our and others bodies need for everyone to fit. We look at the way a gourd floats. We check on each other in the Cozy Corner. We observe what someone does and try to do it ourselves. We take information in, observe the world around us, using our hands and ears and eyes. Ultimately, we also learn to observe our own selves: Am I hungry? Angry? Excited? Sad? Is your friend feeling happy? Tired?

These are small steps for small people, and ones we feel very strongly about. If the ultimate command is "know thyself," this is a great place to begin.


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