• James Butler

My Daughter Wants My Job

Updated: May 10

We have a den at the end of our garden. Part Mancave, part playroom. It’s now more of a makeshift film studio.


My wife and I are both teachers and, during lockdown, we have been recording lessons for our respective schools. Usually, we take it in turns, one of us records whilst the other plays with B (our 2-year-old). However, B enjoys to watch and often wants to be involved in our lessons. When you're trying to teach long division, as my wife was the other day, you do not really need a toddler trying to show the class her Frozen figures at the same time. We have therefore tried to do our best to keep B separate from this when possible.


On Thursday we were in the garden when B took herself off to 'The Den'. I waited a short time before going up to check on her. As I came around the door I saw that B was doing a 'lesson' of her own. Yes, an actual phonics lesson. She was staring directly at the camera, showing it flashcards and speaking into it. It was hilarious! She went on and on, going through all the different cards, shaking them and ‘teaching’ her class.





We thought this was really funny. B was obviously emulating our lessons and copying our intonation and actions. Her "goodbye" and #zoomface, at the end, is very much on point. Then, on reflection, we began to feel a little bit sad. Are we letting B down? Is she being deprived of attention whilst we try to balance work and home commitments? Is that really normal roleplay for a child? It didn't help that she now has started having "meetings" with herself into the TV.


My concerns for B are completely wrong. I'm sure many parents will have the same anxieties around their balance of work and care but I'm going to give B more credit. She has clearly watched us teach, absorbed that language and chosen to roleplay it in her own way. B obviously enjoys participating in my work and maybe there is nothing wrong with that.


Piaget initially discussed children learning through their context and there can be no doubt that B is very much learning in hers. In developed nations we tend to have a mindset that play and work are seperate, play is what children do whilst adults work. Hence my concerns around B's play.


Maybin and Woodhead (2003) explored how, in rural Bolivia, children's play was directly linked to agricultural or domestic work. Children learn skills and knowledge from their parents/carers and contribute to work from a very young age. Rogoff (1993) called this 'guided participation'.


So that's what I'm going to do. B is going to become more of an active participator in my work. She will help me provide meaningful and exciting online learning for my class. By doing so, she will become a guided participant in her parent's work. This will probably show up in her play as she processes and learns the skills she will need.


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