“Observing and recording children’s behavior is the wellspring that nourishes and integrates the dual elements of a teacher’s role – doing and reflecting. Using these techniques, teachers learn to rely on themselves as a potent source of information and to share what they’ve learned with colleagues and parents about the needs, the interests, the uniqueness, and the diversity of the children they live with in the classroom.” (Cohen, D., Stern, V., Balaban, N., and Gropper, N. (2008). Observing and Recording the Behavior of Young Children, p. 1).
I remember talking to a classmate last spring semester and mentioning that I was looking forward to the following year because my course load would be more manageable. She laughed and said she didn’t think so since I would be student teaching and taking Observation and Recording (O&R). O&R is a lot of work, especially if it is combined with student teaching and any other academic or professional obligations you may have. I see now why my remark about an easier semester was met with a laugh.
The Study of Children in Diverse & Inclusive Educational Settings Through Observation and Recording is a required course for some programs at Bank Street. It is recommended, if not mandatory, that you are either in supervised fieldwork or working in a classroom during the course, as you will be observing a “focus child” throughout the duration of the class. All the notes and observations gathered throughout the course culminates in a final project, the in-depth child study.
During each class session, my class would break up into groups based on the age of the child we were studying and talk about the observations we had made about them, compare notes and stories, and share advice and anecdotes about the recording process. I chose my focus child, a 6-year-old boy, in the first grade class where I was a student teacher. It was interesting to hear about the personalities of each of the children and to see how similar their actions and behaviors were. Many of us chose to focus on the children that seemed most like us or we could see ourselves in. I know I gravitated easily to my calm, sweet-natured, and inquisitive study child.
As with all Bank Street courses, this class called for written and verbal reflections about the observation process. For me, it was an eye-opening experience that highlighted some of my personal biases and made me more aware of who I was as a child and how my experiences shape how I am as an educator. Additionally, the course showed me the importance of learning about the whole child versus making generalizations or assumptions about them. Though the class is made up of children of a certain age, each child is bringing their own set of ideas, backgrounds, abilities, and interests to the table. As an educator, it is imperative that we understand the uniqueness and diversity of each child in order to reach each and every one of them in our classrooms. Though this task is time-consuming and intensive, the outcomes outweigh those challenges. The course helped me get a better understanding of the process of observing and recording a child and provided a greater sense of appreciation for the many hats educators must wear in order to provide their students with the best learning environments and experiences.