Yellow Hat, Black Hat, Red hat

Greetings from my bed! It is 7 am on a Sunday morning. Yes, I do wake up early! I’ve been laying here, just thinking about this time last week.  This time last week I was in HCMC, eating breakfast with TeacherTom’ ! 

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Are you wondering ‘Who is ‘Teacher Tom?’ If you are interested in Early Childhood education, I recommend you check him out! He was the keynote speaker at last weekend’s Early Years Conference at Saigon South International school, and  my opinion, he is a wonderful example of a ‘rebel’ educator.

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Exactly one week ago, I was feeling rather nervous. ( I was presenting my ‘Voice choice and Agency, What do teachers ‘do when children play’?workshop) I had put in a lot of thought, time and effort to create a workshop where teachers could have PD agency.

I am very happy to share these with any interested Early Years Educators:

  1. A link padlet for other early years educators to add images, article, wonderings
  2. Choice Voice Agency – Link to Google slides I shared this with participants
  3. Padlet to add your examples of Learner Agency (3-6 yr olds)

On Monday morning, I returned to UNIS Hanoi, to 18 little eager faces, feeling inspired, tired, yet keen to implement some of the playful ideas I’d just learned at the conference. However, I was feeling under pressure. I had just 2 days to prepare my kids for their Student Led Conferences.

I sat with each child, ready to help them be reflective. So with the red, yellow and black hats in hand, I scribed their thoughts. What are you proud of? What compliments do you give yourself? What are your challenges? What can you do now that you couldn’t do at the beginning of the year? Look at the IB Learner Profile- which ones are you already good at ? What are some things you cannot do yet that you want to learn? What is challenging for you? How do you feel about your learning? Are you happy at school? Why? 

After school on Monday I posted this on twitter:

Tuesday morning I found this reply: ( Oops, excuse the typos !)

The #SLC’s on Wednesday in K2C were successful. I felt a great sense of pride as I watched/listened to the parents learn from their five and six year old ‘teachers’!

On Wednesday night, I joined the #KchatAP Twitterchat. The topic was Student Led conferences in the Early Years, so I shared this iMovie of How to prepare for SLC’s with my #PLN in the twittersphere.

As I said before,  it is Sunday morning and I am still in bed, reflecting on my week ! I am reflecting on my own successes, challenges and feelings about my role as a teacher, and as a workshop leader.  I’m using the coloured thinking hats to think about my own learning/teaching. ( If 5 yr olds can be reflective using DeBono’s thinking hats, so can  grown ups!) Yet- right now I’m wondering: Why is it so hard to compliment yourself- without feeling like ‘blowing your own trumpet’ ? ! ? !

My Yellow Hat- compliments

  • Being a risk taker- by leading a workshop at Early years conference @SSIS #EYC2018.
  • empowering my students to independently teach parents during Student Led conferences
  • organizing a meeting for others who attended #EYC2018 @SSIS, to plan how to share the learning from Teacher Tom
  • contributing to #KchatAP twitterchat
  • registering for Webinar: Learning and teaching in the enhanced PYP
  • encouraging others to join me bringing back the Social in Social Media #PDPubAsia
  • starting to read The Innovator’s Mindset, by George Couros.

And- this feedback from my workshop participants made me feel proud too !

I liked that this session included a lot of participation. At the same time, I left wanting to learn more ideas and best practices directly from the presenter.
The presenter has given a variety of tips to evaluate yourself as an educator.

I also received a Gratitude Card from my boss ! She wrote: ‘With sincere thanks for representing UNIS Hanoi at the #EYC and for so willingly sharing  your learning with others. Your commitment to investing in the professional growth of others and giving back to the teaching professional is truly appreciated.’

My Black hat-  Challenges.

Teacher Tom has prodded me to think more about:

  • Risky Play  Teacher Tom said, You can’t define play without talking about risk taking. Tell parents to expect their kids to come home covered in paint, blood, and snot !” ( Hmm.. wonder if I’m rebel enough to actually say that out loud at parent orientation?)
  • Are the problems today due to lack of play? Teacher Tom defines play as “a freely chosen activity!” Teacher Tom said. “True play is open ended. Play is what kids do when adults don’t tell them what to do.” So, why do I still feel guilty when I let the kids have ‘free choice’ ?
  • My most challenging student  ( Yes, The one who’s mother I blogged about in my last post).  Do teachers have to control children’s emotions? Quoting Teacher Tom: ” Let your feelings flourish and get on with your life of doing. Children are the masters of that. Emotions have a beginning, middle, end. Let kids feel full emotions, allow them to cry.” Why do we teach children not to trust their own feelings? The only person who is an expert of feelings is the person him/herself.
  • Commands Why give kids unnecessary commands? 80% of words adults say to children are commands. (This week I have been very mindful of the instructions I give to my students. Yes, It sure is challenging to not boss kids around!)
  • Tidy Up Time after a free play session, is probably the biggest challenge! I feel myself getting frustrated when I see the child who made the mess, just standing there, not helping and letting classmates to the clean up!  I keep saying to my self ‘Teacher Tom’s words:“It is only our adult sense of justice who says all the kids should help.” and tried to implement Teacher Tom’s Tidy Up Time tips. “Give ownership if we want children to take care of things. Don’t be bossy. Give informational statements. Focus on supportive behaviour. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. ” As tweeted:”be conscious of the language you use with children. Instead of using commands use informative statements. Commands put children in a position of either obeying or disobeying. We want to nurture citizens who can self govern.”
  • Teacher Questions Teacher Tom says “Most questions teachers ask children are stupid questions!”( e.g.What colour is that? ) Why do we turn kids from being testers of the world, into test-takers.” My challenge is now to try to NOT ask questions I know the answer to. and replace my questions with “I wonder statements’
  • How can I inspire others at my school to also learn from ‘Teacher Tom’?
  • Finally, as the school year is coming to an end, I can’t stop thinking about the challenges of assessment and reporting! I must  follow the essential agreements that are documented in the teacher handbook . I’m feeling the tension between what ‘my school administrators and team members say I must do Vs. my gut feeling of wanting to be more play-based, like ‘Teacher Tom”! How can I confidently be more of a ‘rebel’?

My red hat- feelings

  • I’m feeling proud!  I’m feeling tense ! I am feeling excited! I’m committed! Im feeling tired, yet inspired!


Now, I am challenging others in our #ibrebelalliance to reflect on their week, using yellow hat, black hat, red hat thinking!




Author: cathconnects

I’m an expat Aussie, teaching PYP to 5 and 6 year olds at UNIS,Hanoi. PYP Workshop leader. Wannabe geek. Love travelling!

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