Is it possible to be Person Centred in Education?

I love bringing creativity into primary school, exploration and imagination being the focus for much of my work.

In my early years community work this can be person centred, classes are smaller or supported by parents. I aim to create an environment where individual response is welcomed and through this support discovery, building self esteem with individualism and praise of finding their way. Often movements reflect personality or enable a different expression from verbal communication. Rolling, laughing, spinning, lying, noise, silence... all welcome responses to the same activity, prop or curiosity.

However in education I can feel bound to the end result. I want to go with the offerings from the children. Often I try to take these if I know they are worthy to the individual, the group, or the aim of the session or the overall project. For example in my Doodle Dance work working with a group who showed movement suggestive of poor core strength I took the offering of bottom spinning and weaved it into a session that then went onto Mark making of swirl... although not planned I knew this was working towards the end aim. It is however when a mass of different ideas are presented, some supportive to the aim and although some still self expression, exercise, developmental movement, together they are hard to manage. They are not supportive to the end aim of that week and viewed as negative behaviour. This is when I feel pulled in so many directions. I want to unpick the movements, giving it time to show the need of the child developmentally and support it not being seen as negative behaviour. However with class sizes, teaching cross curriculum, time and staffing to allow this it’s a challenge.

This is when I have to be realistic. I have to present ways of supporting ownership but know that these children need consistency. I cannot change the system in that moment.

I am building strength in communicating these realities to the supporting teachers. The power of the relationship I build with the teachers I work with is what can support meeting more individual needs.

I also know I can strengthen this even further. I have always believed in self recognition, self reflection. Noticing our own achievement and capabilities allows us to scaffold this. Last year at one of my schools I introduced the children to aspects of the anatomical research I had studied to support my Doodle Dance program creation. Children started to understand their anatomy and the importance for instance of their shoulder rotation, their core, their hand eye co ordination. They started to really explore this, sharing moments when they had recognised this in their creative explorations. I never realised that 4 or 5 year old could do this. Believe, respect and letting them in on the purpose of what we were doing proved they could!

What I have learnt is that sometimes to be person centred it does not mean I let every child do what they want, but support them to have what they need. The support of themselves, the teachers, my approach and the power of dance, arts, play and creativity can empower this.

Jo Cone The Reflective Practitioner

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