What keeps us from letting children lead?   From stepping back from our own plans and waiting, watching to see what the child will do?  How do we distinguish between actions that extend rather than inhibit learning?  When we put out materials, set up our work stations, do we leave room for the imagination?  For the possibility that we don’t really know what a child might be able to learn? 

This picture reminds me that a question can provide an opening.  The child had not followed the directions of painting inside the stencil.  After she had covered the paper with paint, she picked up the pencil attached to the easel.  The teacher stopped her, saying that the pencil was for writing your name.  So I asked,  “Did you have an idea about using a pencil on your painting?”  and she responded, “I forgot to write my name first but I think I can write it if I scratch away some paint.”  So I asked her if she could think of something else she could use to scratch away the paint and she went over to the art center to get a craft stick which she used to scratch her name in the purple paint. 

Later the teacher and I talked about planning and process.  This is a very good teacher, one who values and respects children and is always delighting in the work that happens in the classroom.  After we talked for a bit she said, “I don’t know why I stopped her.  It seems a silly thing to get a pencil gunked up with paint.  I just got  so caught up in my plan that I didn’t respect her plan.” 

I wonder how we can get away from worrying about things like gunky pencils and messy stencils?