I’m reading some John Holt at the moment, a commentator on education and creativity and schooling. So far it’s fascinating stuff, and one of the things he talks about is observing in a classroom, and staying long enough that the kids forgot he was there and acted completely naturally. He saw many things that he never saw when he was in front of the class teaching, and he figured out a lot about the kids’ motivations in what they were doing. How many things were purely for the teacher’s benefit, for example.
If you can, find a way to observe your kids when they’re not watching or aware. You know when you hear things from a teacher and you can’t believe they’re talking about your kid? I’ve been there many times :). So many things are purely done to get a reaction out of us it’s not funny. Come early to pick them up from a playdate or class, and stand in the back. It gives you great perspective on who they are, and how much your presence tailors their decisions! I know it’s helped me to realize where I was putting too much pressure on them, and how my expectations shape them. It only takes a few minutes sometimes to find some really good insights.