There are hundreds of different images of the child.
Each one of you has inside yourself an image of the
child that directs you as you begin to relate to a child.
This theory within you pushes you to behave in
certain ways; it orients you as you talk to the child,
listen to the child, observe the child. It is very
difficult for you to act contrary to this internal image.
For example, if your image is that boys and girls are
very different from one another, you will behave
differently in your interactions with each of them.
Teachers who hold this strong image of children take up the roles of co-creator, partner, advocate and co-constructor of knowledge in their teaching practice. In my work as a facilitator of synchronous online learning experiences I am working to uphold a strong image of the child through respectful verbal and non-verbal communication during our class time and in the documentation I share with caretakers. In our classes this includes encouraging caregivers to afford children control of their mute/unmute button, asking open-ended questions, embracing “off-topic” sharing (i.e. if we’re looking at dinosaur images while the group is talking about dinosaurs and one child brings mermaids into the conversation I don’t discourage them from speaking about mermaids) and bringing attention to observation & documentation practices (i.e. showing children that I am writing down their answers, re-stating their answers/thoughts in ways that communicate respect & curiosity and sharing content informed by their interests).
Many American factory-model schools seem to operate on a product-based, one-size-fits-all assimilation method that leaves little or no room for honoring the unique interests and abilities of children. For the most part, this approach maintains the notion that children should be “seen and not heard”, further betraying the image of the child by choosing to not actually see the child at all. Children who are able to keep hold of their hundred languages in these settings are often viewed as “problems” and eventually forced into the mold created by the adults or made to believe that their creative languages are things to also be practiced in a certain way (i.e. “art” = “everyone must follow the steps to make a frog that looks like this teacher-made frog or you’re not an artist”) In my experience as a student and teacher in traditional American school settings, it seems most of the barriers to supporting strong images of the child stem from adults who are products of generations of participation in the factory-model educational system.
I am hopeful that through the practice of embracing curiosity, reconnecting to our unadulterated childhood inclinations and viewing children through the lens of respect and competency a path to overcoming these barriers will manifest in a way that reaches all children.