We have a wonderful pool in our community and there seem to be no less than 3,000 small children in there at any given moment. Kids in the pool and parents on their chaises . . . it’s an ECE observer's petri dish!
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not some 24/7 kid-voyeur. I don't seek opportunities in my free time to stare at kids. Quite the opposite. I tried to just lay there and get some sun. I tried to read my summer novel. I tried to swim laps and ignore them. I even talked to a few grown-ups in order to keep occupied.
But it didn't work. My third ear and little eye kept listening and watching for something interesting, something that could give me new insight on children.
To the commoner, the pool was filled with children who were either splashing, kicking, playing, screaming, laughing and running incessantly (completely disregarding the lifeguard), or simply standing in the water, goggles on their heads, staring.
What I saw was a little girl who was excited to see that she could kick her feet and make the water splash. She was so cute! I watched her kick, stop, kick again, giggle, kick—adorable! She had no interest in stopping, even if it meant that she kicked other kids or splashed adults. When she accidentally kicked me, I looked up and saw that she was unsure what to do. I said, "Was that an accident?" She said, "Uh-huh." I said, "Well then, that's OK. Keep kicking!" Which, she did. But I noticed that she kept looking at me while she did it. And she wouldn't stop. It was getting a bit eerie. I turned away, then back real fast. She was just watching my every move. I thought: "Stop staring at me! What? Do I have something on my face?" I got out of the water, just a little freaked out. She followed me with her eyes. What was it that had her attention? If she keeps staring at me, I can't observe her anymore. Stop it, kid. That's it; I am going to watch someone else!
There was a boy standing in the shallow end with his goggles on his eyes, face down in the water. He was looking at something. What was it? I had to know. I swam near him and looked down at the bottom of the pool. Nothing. I went under and opened my eyes. Nothing. The chlorine was really high and my eyes started to burn, but I couldn't stop. I needed to see what he saw. I tried it one more time, but had to stop because my eyes were burning. I looked up.
This little guy was just staring at me. In my head I shouted: "What? I am looking at the pool just like you. Stop looking at me. I was just playing. You don't need to stare at me. . ."
This happened often. Kids in the pool, without their parents, were very active; then, when I started to observe them, they would stare me down until I stopped. Fascinating. They don't do that in a preschool, but in school they know their teacher is just a few feet away. At school I am introduced as a friend, but here I am a stalker. Is this an innate defense mechanism? Like a skunk with his smell, these kids offend their predator by staring at them silently until they leave.
If they were camels they would have probably spit on me!
So what did I learn? I learned that I really need to be more creative and less obtrusive when I observe children in public. I also learned that there was something on the bottom of the pool. . .
How about you? What interesting observations have you experienced with children outdoors? Have you had any ECE-related experiences outside of the classroom that somehow helped guide you in the classroom? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.