I have just finished your wonderful book. I think it is very timely and will be a huge help to people who want to move towards personalized learning.
-Helen Hughes, Founder, Windsor House
Pam's wealth of knowledge and deep trust in children as leaders of their learning is so evident. Beginning teachers, experienced teachers, parents, and those who home school could all benefit from reading this guide to ways of learning for parents and teachers.
-Jacquie Nielson, Teacher, Dickens Annex
You have so much knowledge and such a deep understanding of children and what it means to work with them. You have covered all aspects in a clear and succinct manner. I like that you often provide lots of ideas and options-very helpful for teachers.
-Kathy Kealey, Assistant Head York House School
I was very impressed with the clear descriptions of the history and philosophy of the child- centered approach. It's an interesting, clear discussion that should help teachers understand the framework of these schools and encourage them to make changes.
-Linda Picciotto, Primary Teacher, Consultant, Author
Both your book and handbook are inspiring. When we honour the child it opens up our world. There is joy that comes from listening to children and investigating ideas and theories with them.
-Shelley Lammie, Principal, Little School, York House
This is just what people need right now.
-Michele Curry, Primary Teacher
Pam, I enjoyed reading your book so much, you write clearly and inform the reader about personal experiences that make it so much more meaningful, and the ideas that were shared are, I believe so similar to Reggio Emilia. That was generous of you to supply the open ended worksheets at the end of the book. Well done, Pam.
-Sue Sheremeta, Primary Teacher.
CBC Radio One - Interviewed by Sheryl MacKay on North by Northwest Radio program.
Listen to their interview using:
Reviewed by Bernadette Rego
In this book, author Pamela Proctor chronicles her experiences as a teacher and lifelong learner which spanned over three decades in the Vancouver School District. Her journey begins as a newly hired teacher at Renfrew Elementary School, during a time when a rigid education system was still widely sanctioned.
Proctor then takes us through her paradigm changing experience while teaching abroad in Britain. From then on, Proctor becomes a strong advocate for play-based learning, demonstrating through her work and utmost respect for children the benefits of a child-centred approach to teaching. Each chapter title and quote serves as an effective hook, beckoning the reader to continue uncovering more about Proctors past.
Proctor successfully threads together her experiences both as teacher and learner, seamlessly forming the connections between theory and practice. Her vivid descriptions of various classroom settings in which she taught leaves the reader feeling transported in time to the aforementioned spaces. Proctor effectively demonstrates how to marry a multi-age classroom setting with a play-based approach to learning.
Through accounts of children's experiences at Charles Dickens Annex (a primary school in Vancouver), Proctor emphasizes how children have the capacity to take initiative in their own learning while developing strong relationships with other children in the school. The philosophy espoused by Proctor and colleagues at the school helped children foster empathy towards one another. The following example demonstrates the power of promoting positive social experiences among the children:
"Sometimes, the children themselves showed the way. One day, just at nine o'clock, I noticed that six-year-old Clinton was lingering outside crying after everyone else had entered. New to our school, he had been upset due to a family break-up. Seven-year-old Melissa noticed, too...Our staff assistant heard her say to him, "I used to feel like crying when I came to school." She bent down and picked up a stone. "Put this in your pocket," she said, "and every time you feel sad, touch it and remember that your mum will be coming later to get you." Then she handed him a tissue and led him into the school." (p. 159)
Proctor's child-centred approach to teaching young children has become a living testament of how one can give children more autonomy in their learning without risking the possibility of unleashing chaos in the classroom:
"One or two of the main school teachers expressed surprise that the children were so quiet. I was less confused by this remark than I had been in the past. The quiet was not silence. Involved in activity, the children talked in conventional tones pleasant to the ear. Trained as most of us were, it was natural for teachers to think that letting go would mean having noisy classes." (p. 116)
Proctor also addresses the concerns raised by parents and other education stakeholders with regards to the question of how to account for students learning in a play-based setting. An important element of the multi-age environment crafted carefully under the watchful guidance of Proctor and colleagues was that of building community. Proctor identifies in her book with the need to adopt inclusion of families of the children, forming strong partnerships with those intimately involved in the students' lives.
Families were encouraged to attend potlucks and other events hosted by the staff at Charles Dickens Annex. Parents were also welcome to volunteer their time imparting their various talents with small groups of children during certain times of the week. The staff was always receptive to hearing concerns and objections raised by parents while dispelling doubts around the school's child-centred philosophy of learning.
"Honouring the Child" struck a personal chord with me as I was once Mrs. Proctor's student. From 1980 to 1984, I attended Charles Dickens Annex and was fortunate to be in Mrs. Proctor's class. The photographs shared with readers in Proctor's book evoke nostalgia within me, causing me to fondly recall those days when I first officially embarked on my journey as a student in the public school system. Proctor mentioned me briefly on p. 199, in reference to a transcript of children being called upon to choose what they would undertake during "Activity Time." As a former student, I can attest that the learning environment I was privileged to experience strongly shaped me into the individual I have become.
My passion as a life-long learner and love for both reading and writing were mostly nurtured during my early years. Having the ability to regularly engage in play-based learning as a young child in the company of peers helped me develop skills critical to working constructively with others whilst adapting to an ever changing environment we face in today's world. "Honouring the Child" is food for the teacher's soul, serving as a reminder of the importance of adopting play-based learning within educational spaces for young children. Proctor's work is an urgent call to educators and policy makers to return to sound educational practices in today's classroom where there is increasing pressure to normalize the acts of filling out work sheets and testing our youngest students. This book will leave the reader that supports child-centred teaching practices both inspired and supported in one's sometimes seemingly arduous journey as a teacher.
Campbell River, B.C.
16th September 2010
Dear Pamela, Thank you for sharing your story and , more importantly, for your diligence to ensure your story can be read by many by writing your book. I sincerely enjoyed being in a room of like minded individuals. I look forward to sharing this inspirational 'coming to know' story. I have yet to finish reading the book but have already recommended it to both colleagues and friends.
Sincerely, Andrea Dirom
8th September 2010
Dear Ms. Proctor,
I want to thank you for your letter regarding Dickens Annex and for the gift of your beautiful book. I enjoyed meeting you at the Dickens event. I appreciate learning more about the unique and special history of Dickens and will keep it in mind as we go through a very difficult process.
Thanks again and best wishes, Patti Bacchus
I love your book and appreciate sharing your teaching journey and history. I like how I can relate to the years you write about and how I recognize your mentors and the books about education and children. I like how appreciatively and carefully you speak of your colleagues and people in authority especially when you are recording difficult times. Thank you for your many years of fine teaching, and for supporting and inspiring other teachers We are blessed to have had you thinking so clearly about our children and acting so consciously and imaginatively and lovingly with them.
A. Carol Anderson, Parent and Grandmother, Quadra Island, B.C.
This book is insightful. It is needed and should be required reading in any faculty of education course. I really enjoyed reading it.
Robert Rustad, former lecturer, University of British Columbia.
I heartily congratulate Pamela Proctor for writing a fascinating tale of one teacher's struggle for humane education. Not only has she told a good story, she has written it extremely well. Her love of children, and devotion to their welfare, shines through on every page and sometimes brought tears to my eyes.
Dr. Olive Johnson, psychologist, author, and former school trustee.
I have found that my students and I have the most memorable experiences when I allow my children to learn through play and to build on their own interests. This book has inspired me to trust myself and my children.
Michelle Marrs, a beginning primary teacher.
Proctor describes in detail the many issues that arose during the process of (her) transformation. But this is not simply a book of interest to teachers; it is a book for anyone who ever went to school, particularly boomers who grew up during a period of great experimentation within the education system. Proctor tells the story well and engagingly, with fully-documented segments, tape transcriptions, many colour photographs and a selected bibliography.
Jan DeGrass, Coast Reporter, Gibsons
I am intrigued that you made a turn, and early, from the highly traditional, to less formal, more arduous and subtle complexities of supporting more natural education of young children…Your description of the exchange experience in England, and of Summerhill, I found most interesting….Your book has been beautifully produced with the kind of care and attention that I am sure you brought to classroom teaching and learning.
Carol Anne Wein, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, York University, Toronto
Jacquie Nielson, Head Teacher, Charles Dickens Annex, Vancouver
I think the book is a wonderful read and a compelling testimony to a time when our pubic system embraced innovation, holistic learning and open-concept schooling.
Michael Maser, 2006 winner of Prime Minister's Award for Educational Excellence
Reading your fascinating book, I am thrilled by your whole philosophy and approach in "child-sensitive" methods. This type of approach has always been mine in working in the areas of speech, language and reading with children and young adults.
Gert de LaForest, Speech and Language Therapist, Regina
I recommend Honouring the Child to all elementary teachers. It's an opportunity to think again about what an educational program should be.
Chris Schut, Newsletter,Vancouver Elementary School Teachers' Assoc.
Having just passed the halfway point in your book, and I just had to pause long enough to tell you that this is probably the most important book on education that I've ever read. You've definitely whet my appetite and given me some leads to further explore your methods…I must say that you write beautifully. It is a pleasure to read this book.
Bettie Anne Marchiori, Vancouver Teacher
Totally straightforward and honest and as a record of one person's journey through education it made very good sense…. It started me thinking.
Richard Reece, Retired Professor of Archaeology, London University, England
This book confirms my belief that by giving children space to develop their own ideas and interests, rather than by imposing a rigid system of learning up on them, they will thrive.
Georgina Brandon, parent.
This is a 'must read' book for anyone who teaches children and who is searching for concrete examples of ground breaking holistic learning techniques in which students' deepest needs are fulfilled after being given the opportunity to play.
Jacqueline Allan Gye, B.R.Ed., National Coaching Certification Program
This enlightening work comes at an opportune time when insight into the potential harm that may be done by excessive emphasis on early formal instruction and frequent testing of young children is urgently needed. In addition, it raises the questions for creative and thoughtful people who are making a career commitment to teaching young children.
Dr. Lilian G. Katz, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In this book Proctor has produced a masterpiece of professional autobiography that tells the story school by school, colleague by colleague, child by child, of her own search for professional fulfillment as a teacher.
Dr. Sylvia C. Chard, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta.
A long-time school teacher in B.C., dedicated to bringing out the best in her students, wants to share her changing experiences and unique discoveries with every educator who will listen. Pam Proctor has written a book called Honouring the Child: Changing Ways of Teaching, which is now in bookstores.
Proctor, who lives in Gibsons, began teaching in Vancouver in the usual traditional and formal teacher-centered classroom of the 1960s and 1970s -- teaching lessons in many subjects, having a quiet classroom and administering tests. Then she became an exchange teacher in the United Kingdom where she observed a new concept in open-learning settings that were somewhat child controlled, allowing students freedom to pursue their interests to a much greater degree than being teacher-directed at all times.
When she came home she established the Charles Dickens Annex School in East Vancouver. "The difference was the children's response. They were learning from each other, trying new things, doing activities," Proctor told The Citizen during a stop on her Western Canadian book tour. “The children had many choices set up in different spaces from writing and painting to building blocks and math, and moved from area to area. After choosing their activities each day, children worked and played together, co-operating and taking responsibility for their own learning. Those that avoided areas like math were encouraged to try since they could move on to another area once they completed their task”, she said. "I found their concentration was so great, and the method was a natural way to control the class as as they shared spaces in different areas," Proctor said.
She never gave the children tests, but evaluated them on an ongoing basis. “The children and their parents were free form the anxiety and pressures of testing,” she said. "There is a blow to the self-esteem of many children who struggle with tests that do not take into account individual differences in terms of learning styles and rate." She believes children do best when they are challenged, given choices and can set goals in a setting where their imaginations and spirits are embraced.
Readers will share Proctor's journey as she slowly changes her thinking and ways of teaching. She gives a clear picture of a teacher's role in an open and informal practice that revolves around planning, guiding, helping, supporting and responding to the needs of each child.
Lillian Katz, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois said the book comes at an opportune time when insight into potential harm that may occur from strong emphasis on early formal education and frequent testing of young children is needed. The hope of Proctor and people like Katz is that the book will encourage a re-evaluation of the current trend of formal teaching and test-dominated practices
Teacher shares experiences in book
By Bernice Trick, staff writer, Prince George Citizen
Kamloops – Thirty-five years in the classroom taught Pamela Proctor as much as she taught her students.
The long-time B.C. educator is so passionate about what she learned, she has written a book in hopes of passing along her knowledge to other teachers — for the sake of their pupils.
Honouring the Child, Changing Ways of Teaching, is an autobiographical account of how Proctor came to change her way of teaching and the successes and frustrations that followed over her teaching career.
Proctor is traveling the province to promote her book. She spoke to teachers and parents at the Kamloops Library last week.
“I wrote the book to inspire teachers to change their style, but the book has also been of great interest to parents. It’s been kind of surprising in a way, but a good surprise to discover there is a broader interest than just teachers,” she said during an interview with The Daily News.
Proctor, a primary teacher, accepted that a classroom should be a silent place where students followed routines. Everything was rigid, she said.
“I became quite good at that. I was asked to have visitors to my class to observe how classrooms should be run.
“Then I went on an exchange.”
That exchange with a teacher from Leicestershire, England revealed to Proctor a whole new method of teaching that involved learning through play.
There were no chalkboards and very little paper. Instead, there were water and sand stations, puzzles and blocks.
“Until then, I thought I had to tell the children what to do,” she said.
The English “infant school” taught children on an individual basis through the hands-on method.
“I really learned that everyone was different and everyone had to be treated differently.”
Proctor brought this new way of teaching back to Vancouver and used it as much as possible throughout her career. Her firm belief that testing is not the way to get children to learn was another reason she wrote her book.
“This standardized testing (Foundations Skills Assessments) is not healthy,” she said.
Teachers spend the majority of classroom time focusing on reading, writing and arithmetic because they feel pressure for their students to do well on the tests.
Creative activities that are far more beneficial for a student’s educational experience take a backseat, Proctor said.
Her book has had enthusiastic feedback from university professors, psychologists, as well as teachers. The forewords were written by Lillian G. Katz and Sylvia C. Chard, co-authors of Engaging Children’s Minds: The Project Approach.
A young teacher in Williams Lake told Proctor: “I want your book. I didn’t have a good time in school and I want my students to have a good experience.”
For Proctor, that’s what it is all about, teaching teachers to honour the child.
Honouring the Child is available at the TRU bookstore, Bookies, for $28.50.
Author wants to inspire teachers to change
By Susan Duncan see review article
Dear Susan Duncan
Subsequent to our interview and our arrival back in Gibsons, I read your Friday column, and as Pam and I have been talking to parents and teachers in many small communities throughout BC, your article resonated strongly with us.
Immediately following our interview with you we were in Savona and visited the library and a primary school with 64 students that is threatened with closure, where the children have painted all over the street Save our School. We talked to the librarian and the school administrator and it is a very wrenching situation.
In your column you suggest to return the school to its one room roots, and we can tell that you we visited such a school in Winlaw, just north of Nelson. We observed this privately operated one room school operating with 26 students aged 5 through 13 with volunteer parents supporting 4 teachers (part time or full time?). Last year they tried to integrate into the public system but were told they would not be allowed to choose their teachers!
In our interview you asked aren’t parents lining up to get into traditional schools? Well our experience is in our travels throughout BC we have met parents and teachers who desire a more creative and active learning experience, instead of as Pam describes it the traditional factory style of education with its teach, test, rank, and fail.
In Salmo we met parents who are thinking about organizing to start their own school like the one in Winlaw. In Grand Forks and 100 Mile House we met enthusiastic young teachers who are looking for support to create active child centred learning experiences, and we know of others who are striving to build positive school memories for their students.
Pam and I have invested our energy and resources to produce and present Honouring the Child because we believe in the importance of its message to society even if much of society is not paying attention to what we see as a declining quality in the most important early learning experiences. In this we are supported by endorsements of leading early childhood educators in North America, Dr. Lilian Katz in Chicago and Dr. Sylvia Chard in Edmonton.
As this our second B.C. tour has now closed, we are reflecting on our contacts with the hundreds of persons who have attended workshops and conferences with us, and thinking about our future activities for the benefit of young children.
é Thanks for taking the time to meet with us,
Tmi Publications, publisher of Honouring the Child
To order these books please see ordering information