Monday, July 27, 2015

Climbing and Coaching

LP, NA, and LS were climbing on our sturdy climbing dome.  This area in the yard has become a frequent meeting spot for children.  The challenges it offers, climbing up and getting in and out of the dome's structure of triangles,all while negotiating space, are inviting for our group of eager explorers.
On this particular day, LS was attempting to climb higher than she had before.  LP was watching her friend closely and noticed when LS looked worried as she stood with both feet on a bar above the ground.  LP got close to her friend and asked, "You want a little help?"  LS nodded, and LP gently touched one of LS's feet.  "You move that foot down first and then your other foot and then you'll be down!"  The girls made eye contact for a moment, and then LS began her descent.  She got both feet on the ground with a smile and clapped her hands once, and moved on to another area of the yard.
After LS moved away, LP started her own work of climbing again.  LP had been watching closely as NA moved all around the top layer of the dome, and decided to try it herself.  As her friends moved on to other activities, LP slowly climbed each rung of the dome, waiting until she felt ready to move a hand or foot to the next.  When she made it to the top, she called out, "Hey, N!  I'm up high!" - a smile on her face, and pride in her voice.  She stayed up there for a while, enjoying the view from her new perch, and then I heard her calmly call out, "Hey, Emma!  I think I need a little help."

I walked over and stood nearby and asked LP what was going on.  She explained to me that she didn't know how to get down, and I began to coach her through the steps of climbing down, mirroring the coaching she had done with LS earlier.  I talked about how one way to climb down would be to place your knee where your foot had been before, and once LP did that, she was able to climb the rest of the way down by herself.  At the bottom of the dome, LP paused and took a breath.  "I really did that," she said, and then ran off to the next thing.

The practice of coaching allows for one person to calmly and patiently help another through something that feels tricky or risky.  By talking through the problem-solving process, coaching allows a child to take ownership of the solution, build skills and confidence, and share a moment of connection with the person who is coaching them.  Coaching is an important part of the teacher-child relationship at Tumbleweed, and as language grows within our cohort, the children are able to skillfully coach each other.  This is a building block in our school culture which values challenges and sees struggle as an opportunity for connection, growth, and building independence.

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