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Reactions to Honig
July 17, 2002

"What its children become, that will the community become." —Suzanne La Follette


On July 2nd Alice Honig shared her reactions to the ExchangeEveryDay for Monday, June 24, "The Value of Observing and Recording." Many people shared their reactions to Honig's reactions:

Raphael Noz:

"I agree with the feedback on observation, to a point. All of the Piagetian and Mahlerian stuff are great tools to have, but they are just tools. The most lasting advice I can remember from a certain graduate class was to simply look around your room and ask the simple question: "what the heck is happening here?" It connects your eye observations with your brain observations and ...drumroll please.. with your gut observations."

Barry Bussewitz:

"I heartily concur that the conceptual reference points she notes can all add significant understanding to one's observations of young children. However, an open-minded person -- one who has developed the discipline to observe with suspended judgement -- can learn a great deal without prior knowledge of Piaget, Erikson, Mahler, etc.

"Consider how Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori themselves developed their own ideas and theories. I find the accounts of the importance they placed on observing accurately and for themselves especially inspiring. The grad student Ms. Honig mentions characterizing an observation as one baby "aggressing" against another strikes me as an example not of observing accurately but of observing through a preconceived filter. I would call that not observing but judging.

"To observe with the suspended judgment of an open mind, what some might call "beginner's mind," may be more fundamental to perceiving the mystery and wonder of the subject than even to apply the important theoretical understandings that we also rely on to do the work of Early Childhood Education."

Jenna Davis:

"Ms. Sterling's opinion about "observing wisely" reflects the frequent disconnection between academia and the rest of the early childhood world. I just attended Margie Carter and Deb Curtis's documentation training, and I have a child policy background instead of a child development background. I think a key to observation is knowing the audience who will learn from your observation. The most impressive observation will be lost on policymakers and many parents if academic terms like "Piagetian sensorimotor learnings, Eriksonian struggles, Mahlerian stages, language development norms and progressions" are not translated into everyday language. Researchers tend to struggle with this translation, and I believe a person with basic child development knowledge can just as 'wisely' do an observation with the right sense of audience, storytelling, and creativity.

"As for her grad student who observed one baby "aggressing against another", we call this a 'teachable moment'."

Gay MacDonald:

"What would believers in this approach say to the Reggio approach of hiring essentially untrained and unprepared but willing adults and having them learn through making extensive documented observations?"

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