Planning, the teachable moment and the ordinary moment

Diti Hill asserts that “without in-depth consideration of their practice and the concepts and words they use to describe it to others, early childhood teachers will perpetuate the unquestioned thoughts of others and, as Lubeck (1998) has said, will merely incorporate new ideas into old agendas, without changing the actual practices that deeply structure their professional lives.” (10) In this article, her focus is on the notion of ‘planning’ and she writes:

“Although Quality in Action mentions the words ‘plan’ and ‘planning’, there is no definition of the words in the glossary. The New Zealand Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1990, p.579) defines ‘plan’ as – …a method or procedure, especially coneceived beforehand, by which a thing is to be done; to arrange or work out details of a procedure beforehand. The word ‘planning’ in this dictionary is relegated to – ‘the controlled design of buildings and the development of land’ (p.580).

‘Planning’ is not associated with human encounters and it is interesting to speculate on where and how, in the history of Anglo-Saxon education, children and their learning became linked to ‘things to be done’. However, it is planning as ‘how things are to be done’ that seems to spring to the minds of the early childhood teachers with whom I have spoken – with an emphasis on the future tense implied in ‘to be’.” (11)

If we wish to really follow the child’s agenda, as suggested by Dunkin and Hanna (2001), and resist following our own, we must avoid removing the learning moment from the control of the child. Any filling of the future with experiences and activities is power over the child’s own learning in the present, over the desire of the child to learn, a desire that is not finally known until the moment of learning. With planning for children’s learning so morally charged, I believe that it is necessary to make a carefuly distinction between planning for the learning environment and planning for learning. The former offers some leniency in terms of the future tense and separates control over inanimate objects from control over the thinking processes of human beings whose lives are fluid and unpredictable… from control over children who have no real interest in the adult notion of ‘planning’. Children do not live their lives in curriculum fragments.

In the dictionary sense, planning for the environment may offer early childhood teachers an expanded view of the environment as something they may believe they have primary control over, and thus responsibility for, until the moment, when the child engages with it. At this point in time, the power must be shared or reside only with the child. In the moment all planning must be given over to learning. It is in the moment that the value of a responsibly prepared environment is realised. That many teachers confuse the learning environment for learning itself is evident in the number of early childhood centres cluttered with the little known resources and artifacts from past learning opportunities and other people’s learning stories.

It is little wonder that Loris Malaguzzi (1993, cited in Edwards, Gandini and Forman 1996), noted that the centres and schools of Reggio Emilia do not have a planned curriculum and that this would push the centres and schools toward teaching without learning; he emphasised that the teachers follow the children, not the plans and that while the word ‘planning’ is not used, the word ‘reconnaissance’ is a strong word in their vocabulary.

The New Zealand Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1990, p.641) defines ‘reconnaissance’ as – ‘a survey to ascertain strategic features’. It is interesting that the word ‘reconnaissance’ has such a strong sense of the present tense.” (12)

Hill, Diti (2001) Passion, power and planning in the early childhood centre. The First Years: Nga Tau Tuatahi. New Zealand Journal of Infant and Toddler Education, 3(2), 10-13

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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