Our Youngest Teachers Remind Me…Look Under Foot

March 17, 2009 at 8:08 am 1 comment

posted by Alisa Algava ’08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school

alisaThe lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is “Look under foot.”…The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are.  ~John Burroughs

We are all teachers, but more importantly, we are all learners.  I spent Wednesday morning with our 31 three, four, and five year olds at Common Ground Farm, a local CSA.  Jen, the farm educator, showed us different kinds of seeds (some of which, like alfalfa sprouts, we even got to taste!) and then small groups of children visited the animals in the barn and the new farmers who were planting in the small greenhouse.  The rest of the children and teachers and parents visited the larger greenhouse as they “waited” their turn.  But here’s what I noticed…for each child, this time was never about waiting.  From the moment we walked into the greenhouse every sense was activated and exploration began. Consider some of the many observations, questions, and conversations:

  • Immediately drawn to the cat’s bed and food, they asked questions about where the cat might be and what it would be doing out in the snow on such a cold day.
  • Bending down and looking intently at the gravel floor, they found small scraps – string, unknown thick stick-like objects (which we determined were dried stems of pumpkins), labels from planting trays, a butterfly’s wing.
  • Noticing the stacks and stacks (almost to the ceiling) of black plastic trays, they decided these trays weren’t for ice cubes but for the farmers to plant the seeds.  We then read the labels together – zinnia, butternut, acorn, pie pumpkin, and on and on.  Do the farmers really grow pumpkin pies?  “NO, pumpkins!”
  • Feeling the warmth inside the greenhouse, we looked for a heater and discovered it wasn’t turned on.  We then figured out that the plastic walls help to “collect the sun” and keep the warmth inside.

Our youngest learners are perhaps our greatest observers.  And they are my teachers.  I need to remember to stop and notice what is in front of me, all around me, and right underneath my feet.  When we all do that together, what an extraordinary school and world we will share.

Alisa Algava graduated from Bank Street’s Leadership for Educational Change program in December.  For the past 14 years, she has taught and learned in public, private, and charter schools in NY, NJ, and RI.  Last month she wrote a posting – Stepping into the River – about what she has learned from her own kindergarten teacher. She loves learning.  And she also loves moderating The Alumni Blog.

Entry filed under: constructivism, curriculum, early childhood, environmental education, our teachers.

Teachers Are Learners, Too: Individualizing Professional Development Through Coaching Take Your Kids Out for a Walk

1 Comment Add your own

  • […] schools in NY, NJ, and RI.  She has written 2 other postings for Bank Street’s Alumni Blog: Look Under Foot describes an eye-opening experience with the 3, 4, and 5 year olds at her school and Stepping into […]

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Some of Our Past Bloggers

Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school
Gloria Arenson ’58, psychotherapist
Bill Ayers ‘84, UIC professor, Chicago
Fred Baumgarten ‘84, writer/musician/naturalist/father
Keith Berman '03, founder/president of Options for College and Bank Street’s LinkedIn moderator
David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art
Elena Canaras ‘07, Special Education teacher, Hawaii
Virginia Casper, Bank Street faculty member
Jim Clay ‘88, director of a Washington DC Quaker preschool
Mary DeCamp Cotterall ‘87, Reading Specialist, Michigan
Judy Coven ’77, retired public school teacher and former Antioch University faculty member
Leslie Day '93, adjunct instructor at Bank Street and author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City
Mary Louise (Molly) Day ‘76, Lab School teacher, Chicago
Liezel de La Isla ‘99, Prague International School teacher
Diane Trister Dodge '70, founder and president of Teaching Strategies, Inc.
Meghan Dunn ’08, 3rd grade teacher, Brooklyn
Steven Evangelista ’01, co-director Harlem Link Charter School, NYC
Janine Fetters ‘02, Senior Associate of Parent Engagement at NACCRRA
Dena Florczyk '88, middle school teacher and founder/director of The Nigerian School Project
Hollee Freeman '94, writes about parenting issues for the alumni blog and was featured on BSCAA's April 2012 Career Panel
Ellen Galinsky '70, is President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
Joanne Ruvolo Gannett ‘84, Columbia College art history professor, Chicago
Joan Goldstein ‘67, sociologist and educator
Margot Hammond, Director of the Center for Early Childhood Professionals
Carol Hillman ‘67, early childhood educator, author, and Long Trip co-leader
Pam Jones ‘05, Bank Street advisor and instructor
Lee Klinger Lesser ‘87, trainer for the Parent Services Project
Preminda Langer ‘97, teacher trainer
Claire Milam ’97, life coach, Austin, Texas
Rabin Nickens ‘03, Speaker, Trainer and Educational Consultant
Beth Norford ‘89, consultant and former School for Children teacher
Susy Ogden ‘97
Marion Palm ‘95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer
Jessica Poser, assistant professor of art education at UIC, Chicago
Jesse Pugh '76, BSCAA President
Meg Rauen ‘06, former Chicago elementary school teacher, NY
Linda Reing, Bank Street Director of Alumni Relations
Rosalind Rothman '62, retired NYC teacher and guidance counselor
Kyla Ryman '92/'97, educational coach and consultant
Ariel Sacks ‘06, middle school teacher, Brooklyn, NY
Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81, psychotherapist and author
Barbara Silver ‘80, literacy consultant and former NYC first grade teacher
Andrea Penny Spencer, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bank Street
Debbie Stone ‘84, former teacher/co-director of High Valley School
Rachel Theilheimer ‘74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY
Theodore Timpson ’05, founder/president of Young Spirit Foundation
Eleanor Traubman '95, is Editor in Chief of Creative Times, a blog which promotes NYC's performing, visual and literary arts
Allison Warren '08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher
Max Weinberg ‘03, Francis Parker School teacher, Chicago
Ted Wells ‘07, 4th grade teacher at The Park School, Brookline, MA
Tracy Wiessbrod ’03, kindergarten teacher and stay-at-home mom

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