Yesterday at dismissal, one of my Kindergarten students, Yousef, came running up to me and show me his treasure, a seed pod. Yousef handed it to me and said, “Ms Atima… this is a seed pod. It has seeds inside so a new tree can grow.” I asked him where he found it and he pointed a tree to me. I asked him how he knew. He looked at me with a patient smile and explained. “It is from that tree because that’s where it was. It fell down.” I found the seed pod intriguing as it almost looked like a wooden flower. I was trying to scan the space for one as I wanted to explore one myself! Yousef looked at me thoughtfully, and then gave me his seed pod. “Here. You can have it. It has three parts. I will give you two parts, so you never forget me. And I will take one part, so I never forget you. And oh! I will see you on Monday!”
Ah… what a precious moment it was! That I was loved and valued by this child so much that he gave me his treasure, sparked joy at the end of a typical school week.
The seed pod sat on my office table and brought a smile on my face each time I saw it. It made me think of Yousef, exactly as he had intended! As I was leaving school, I wondered why this had brought me so much joy. Something about this seed pod went beyond the happiness of having received an affirmation of a relationship between an educator and a student. I decided to dig deeper. I was intent on listening, but I had no time. So, I took a photo of the seed pod and brought it home.
The long weekend helped me to slow down and take time to reflect on the photo. Unintentionally, it had become a piece of documentation which I was going to use to ‘listen’. The photo helped me revisit the experience somewhat like a video in my mind. I wondered what it told me about Yousef.
Here is what I heard…
I am blown away… not only because I can see Yousef in a brighter light as a competent, capable individual but also by how powerful this one piece of documentation has been for me to understand Yousef as a learner.
Carla Rinaldi talks of listening as ‘an active verb that involves interpretation, giving meaning to the message and value to those who offer it.’
I wonder how many Yousefs have I missed in my busyness.
I wonder how I can declutter my time to listen to more learners and listen deeper... “Listening to the hundred, the thousand languages, symbols, and codes we use to express ourselves and communicate, and with which life expresses itself and communicates to those who know how to listen.”
I wonder how I can take this forward.
For now, my action is to document my reflection and share it with my community of learners. This beautiful experience has helped me explore deeper, the pedagogy of listening. I hope reading this piece, helps another educator somewhere, find and listen to another Yousef, and in the process find and listen to one’s own self.
Reference: Carla Rinaldi’s chapter entitled “Documentation and Assessment: What is the Relationship?” in Project Zero and Reggio Children (2001): Making learning visible: Children as individual and group learners. Reggio Emilia, Italy: Reggio Children.