This morning, I read this article by Carol Black about what she calls "The Evaluative Gaze"; that slightly patronising 'look' with which we teachers over look our charges' work and with which we judge and grade their efforts.
It's an intriguing viewpoint, particularly relating to how there are possibly children out there who hold back their best work from we, the arbiters of all, so that they can maintain some ownership over it.
It made me wonder when this happens? At what point in a child's life do children start to conform? At what age to children lock on to the fact that life is a game and it's all about point scoring, metaphorical and literal.
My son is about to start school. He is a curious, inquisitive, lively little person who loves his own company as much as the company of others. He will spend hours engaged in his own games, drawing things over and over again until they are right in his mind. He will clamber and climb and wend his way up, over and under anything that comes his way again and again until he has mastered it and then he will move on. He says whatever comes into his head and he makes sense of the world around him using the contexts and ideas he has observed or heard.
He doesn't seek approval and in fact, as parents, our proudest moments are when he says or does things that have nothing to do with us but that he has simply chosen to do just because.
I'm all for praising children and spend a large part of my day trying to find reasons to do exactly that but this article made me think about what I'm praising the children for?
Am I praising them for conforming to my expectations or genuinely valuing them as individuals and the work they do for me. Am I praising their work for its merits or against a generic one-size-fits-none standard by which I have learnt to judge a child of a certain age and stage?
This quote I found particularly intriguing given that we are in the throes of "transition". Is it fair on the children in our classes to be handed over to us with a label? Once I've been labelled, why should I not live up to it?
A truly intriguing piece, and beautifully written to boot!