My first three days at AIMS was a blur of activity (side note: I was a kindergarten teacher just prior to coming to AIMS). As a new member on the Early Math team, I jumped right into helping organize final preparations for a full day of seminars for over 300 teachers and aides at Head Start. Even just sitting in, I was exposed to a wealth of new knowledge. I was also able to get a behind the scenes look into the work, research, and collaboration the team engages in as they prepared for the big event.
Just imagine my excitement for the day of the seminars. Since my teammates were all involved as speakers, I was lucky enough to observe and participate in all of their sessions. Every session was truly amazing and had everyone’s full attention. The day began with Paul Reimer’s keynote speech, “Teaching is Listening: Attending to Young Children’s Mathematics.” Throughout the day I would catch glimpses of some of the participants’ notes and I would see Paul’s name and the words “inspirational,” “amazing,” and “eye opening” written next to it. Paul was able to deeply affect the teachers and administrators in the crowd about the value of students sharing their own stories, the power of listening, and the different levels of listening. Paul went on to say, “teaching is listening and learning is talking.” This was a different professional development experience than I have ever personally received.
After reflecting upon the day, I thought about how many teachers get caught up in the concept of a child giving “right” or “wrong” answers to certain questions. It seems like some teachers get lost along the way and forget why they became teachers and what their goal is. They are teachers because they love their students and have a passion for guiding them along the way. That’s certainly how I always felt in my classrooms, and it’s why I believe now that teachers need to let their kids tell their stories, allow them to become comfortable with their own voices. By doing this, we foster a natural progression toward kids talking about their thinking, explaining and justifying what they were seeing, how they saw certain patterns, and so on.
Telling stories is very empowering, especially for young children. Let’s help teachers learn to use this as a tool in their classrooms to create an environment where kids love to learn through play, exploration, and imagination.