The entire time I was pregnant with Ayva, in addition to working full-time and teaching part-time, I also took part in a 9 month fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. The fellowship was for Educators and Administrators in Out of School Time programs, and focused on the practice of using practitioner inquiry to better our work. Practitioner inquiry according to Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1993), whose work we read extensively, is “systematic intentional inquiry by teachers about their own school and classroom work“. What does that have to do with being a more plugged in mama? Well, as parents, we are our children’s first teachers. What if we took the time to be systematic about our parenting?
Guess what? We are going to take the time to be more systematic about our parenting! (Bet you didn’t see that coming!) Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. It just means that we’ll be journaling our interactions with our children over the next few weeks in order to determine how we can create more intentionally engaging interactions with them. Pretty easy, right? Did you ever keep a feeding or sleep log for your little ones when they were babies? This is basically the same concept and will be equally as helpful!
Day 1 – Analyzing Motherhood
- Find an empty notebook with plenty of pages to write down your observations. Before I move forward…Hey, you over there procrastinating because you think you need a fancy new notebook…you don’t. Use pieces of scrap paper if you have to, and just stick them all in an envelope with the date on them for later. Don’t let this one thing hold you back from starting (I’m saying this out of love and because I’ve been there!).
- Every day, at various points during the day, jot down notes describing anything interesting that you’ve observed about your interactions with your child. For example, an evening note might simply be, “Ayva ate all of her food tonight and asked for seconds. She left the table without putting her plate away, but came back and took it to the kitchen without any fussing when I called her back into the room.” A note before bedtime might be, “I read 1 story to Ayva tonight. She complained about the book being too short, and cried when I told her it was time for bed. That was 30 minutes ago, and she’s still up. Not crying, but still up.”
- Try to make a decision about when you’re going to write observations. Will it be once in the evening as soon as your children go to sleep? Are you going to make time to write once they go to school and again after dinner? Set your time and stick to it! It’s important to be consistent in order to find patterns and make discoveries about what’s working and what’s not.
- Once a day (a good time to do this is at night), ask your children a question about your performance. It can be something simple like, “How did I do as a Mom today?”, or “What is 1 thing that I did today that you liked?” We aren’t being Mothers in a bubble. We have real live people that we’re caring for. Allow them to have a role in your plugging in. Be sure to record their answers in your notebook.
- Read back over your notes each day. If you notice anything interesting, or make a realization, circle it or highlight it. When I did my professional inquiry focusing on a group of middle school girls, I realized that the complaints the girls made were all about lack of leadership opportunities. That discovery was HUGE, and led to me restructuring the entire program. I might not have ever “got it” had I not been being intentionally observing their behavior and their communication.
This is the work, Mamas. I don’t think any of us ever thought that it would be easy. The blessing of this job makes it all worth it, though. So, get your notebook, and start writing! I’ll see you tomorrow with the next challenge!
Read the previous day’s post: Plug In, Mama! 21 Days To More Engaged Parenting