Saturday, November 27, 2010

3. Get to Know Myself

To Know Me Is to Love Me
Identity is a big thing.  In fact, in one's life, it may be the only thing.  One of the great things about schools is that one surrounded by all kinds of models for one's identity.  Look at that girl over there who has lots of friends because she is so kind to other people.  I'd like to be like that.  Look at that kid over there who is doing that disgusting thing with his fingers, and look how people are reacting to it.  Man, I don't want to be like that!  And what about me?  When people are with me, what are they thinking about me?  Do they want to be like me or do I do some things that make them cringe?

Chip, chip, chip

I love the fact that kids get to learn about so many things in elementary school. They get a first hand chance to enjoy an experience and see if that idea resonates with who they are: "Hmmm. I liked that. I think I'll do more of that," or "That makes sense to me. It must be true," or "I'm not very good at that. If I don't get this pretty soon, I think I'll stop doing this," or "That's rubbish! I can't believe that!" Kids start to chisel out who they are based on their experiences, so we need to give them as many different kinds of experiences as possible, not just from books or second hand, but authentic experiences. I also believe that it is counterintuitive to grade young students on these kinds of experiences because not only are these young minds trying them for the first time, but in reality, an outside standard can't judge whether something will stick. If the experience resonates with the student (i.e. it is interesting, meaningful, or important), it will probably stick with them.

Tell Me Me
Reaching back to #2 Communicate, self expression is essential.  The way we get to learn about ourselves is by letting ourselves and others know how we think and feel.  Schools give kids lots of opportunities to do so: discussions, writing, dancing, painting, laughing, crying, reflecting, etc.  That last one, reflecting, is too underused.  Someone said at my last professional development meeting that we should have an additional day after the regular workshop or conference day, just to reflect and find ways to assimilate everything we've learned.  The same is true for kids.  We throw so many new ideas and experiences at them, but we give them very little time to think about their learning and what it might mean to them.  I see reflection as communicating with yourself. 

One of the ways we are trying to help kids learn at my school is by teaching them about self regulation.  We  can ask kids what they learned about themselves in doing any activity or learning about something new.  Hopefully, they'll begin to internalize this self talk: "When I'm working in a group, how is that affecting me?  I want to do my part, but I don't know what that is yet.  Maybe if I keep listening and asking questions, I'll figure it out,"  or "Linda sure looks mad right now. What were we talking about that might have made her so angry?"  It's really difficult for young children especially to think about their thinking, but we teachers try to model it as much as possible by thinking out loud.  By having students understand how their own emotional state affects them, they begin to see how emotions affect others too. 

Me on Me
I think this idea of identity resonates with me because I tried on all kinds of people's identity's until I found one that worked for me.  I took bits and parts of everyone I encountered until I sculpted out the identity I have today.  And though I think my identity is pretty well set now, I can still emulate other people depending on the task at hand, especially for tasks outside my comfort zone (e.g. negotiating a deal, speaking in front of large groups, trying on new pants when the mirror is placed outside of the changeroom, etc.).  Who am I kidding?  My identity is still in a state of flux.  I am still learning from other people and I am still learning about myself.

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