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Diary

In this blog we are posting news from around the network, reflections on general news items and other broad-ranging items of interest. Current contributors are Sightlines Initiative directors Robin Duckett, Liz Elders, Debi Keyte Hartland and Chris Merrick.

"What's life like for the worms?"

On the 14th May, as part of our conference on the work and influence of Loris Malaguzzi, our friend and colleague Professor Gunilla Dahlberg will be discussing the transforming of awareness and practice amongst Swedish educators and preschools in the  Swedish Reggio Emilia Network.  The intriguing title comes from  child's question in one of their schools, which helped the educators develop.

It is a journey of 'learning to listen' – going beyond 'doing': "When we began we loved the idea of project work – but we didn't actually listen to the children!"

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Nurturing the basics; being the change: Your move!

We are way past mid-winter; new shoots are growing; gardeners are thinking about tending their gardens. Coming back from the mid-winter break, we're all in different ways turning our attention to new growth. For educators and settings attending to new development in 2016, here is a distillation from Ken Robinson's excellent and cogent 'Creative Schools':

"  Richard Gerver (Head Teacher of the Year 2005) : the basics I'm talking about are the biological gifts we're born with that thrust us into the world as incredible learning organisms. We are born with all the skills – all the basics – we need. Babies and very young children are incredibly intuitive, naturally creative, and deeply curious.'

People will achieve miracles if they are motivated by a driving vision and sense of purpose. That vision has to connect with them personally. I can't imagine that many children wake up in the morning wondering what they can do to raise their state's reading standards. But countless children do want to read and write and calculate for their own purposes and to sing and dance and explore and experiment. Countless teachers and parents want to support them. 

There is not a simple line from vision to change. It is a constant process of action, improvisation, evaluation, and reorientation in light of experience and circumstances. 

As Gandhi said, if you want to change the world, you must be the change you want to see.  "

Ken's book is a cogent call for change. He's setting the ground for what and why, and how: the chart above is from Tim Brighouse. 

Looking forward to our change discussions and consultancies in 2016, we've added to our resource papers an extract from Ken's closing chapter. We think it is an excellent and encouraging grounding for all those engaged on the quest of creating decent education: it is here for you to download.

Happy new year, and rewarding re-orientations!

Robin Duckett

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Snooker Halls or Learning Places?

"School is not at all like billiards. When you play billiards you push the ball with a certain force and it hits the table and bounces off; there's a definite way the ball will go, depending on force and direction. Children are not at all like this, predictable. But sometimes schools function as if they were; these are schools with no joy."

This is Loris Malaguzzi discussing in 1993 the qualities of a desirable learning place. He continues:

"... We need to be open to what takes place and able to change our plans and go with what might grow at that very moment both inside the child and inside ourselves.

Each one of us needs to be able to play with the things that are coming out of the world of children. Each one of us needs to have curiosity, and we need to be able to try something new based on the ideas that we collect from the children as they go along … As life flows with the thoughts of the children, we need to be open, we need to change our ideas; we need to be comfortable with the restless nature of life. All of this changes the role of the teacher, a role that becomes much more difficult and complex. It also makes the world of the teacher more beautiful, something to become involved in."

In reflecting on our 2015 work and events, and preparing for our 2016 professional development events* and consultancies. we've been reviewing and re-selecting background material from our colleagues in Reggio Emilia by way of an introduction. You'll find this inspiring talk amongst the selection here*.

Loris Malaguzzi's words are if anything, even more true today. We all know of the joyless schools (and the dispirited educators who feel they have to leave them). And yes, they can certainly have a look and feel of a snooker hall.

But. Our experience, and our connection with the experience and determination of others, shows the more joyful possibilities.

"You've given me hope where bulls stamped,
You've given me passion where ashes lay,
You've given me life where old bones creaked,
You've given me tranquillity in a world of voices,
I can now lead.
I see the beauty in the world again."

from a reflection by 2015 course participant Stefanie Hill.

In 2016, will we submit to the insistent click-clack of the snooker hall, or inhabit the difficult (and more beautiful) world of curiosity? And which world do we want for our children?

* Do please take a look at this new programme, and the selected background material from Reggio. And like and share it and all of that. We are sure you will find useful and inspiring material here; we did.

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