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In preparation for our conference this weekend, Elena Giacopini of Reggio Emilia suggests reading the introduction to the book 'The Fountains'. Here we can find very neat summaries of various aspects of the approach of the preschools in Reggio. Here is Loris Malaguzzi discussing the necessary sensibilities of the teacher:
"...the teacher's tasks can only be mentioned in a broad sense, as they also involve the sensitivity and experience that the teacher contributes, and the resources which the adult must credit - first and foremost - to the children.
So, what to do?
- To be convinced that ways of knowing and learning can be identified, and that what we are interested in is discovering and understanding through which interactive processes children construct their knowledge and abilities, and how these processes can be enhanced or modified.
- To trust our self-regulatory resources to differentiate and measure out the nature and quality of our intervention.
- To be convinced that children and their cooperative group work are capable of carrying the project through, and that its success will also depend on our ability to guide and support them.
- To respect children's times of thought and action, as well as those of pause and indecision.
- To help children reflect on the possible differences of their opinions from those of others, and on their complete freedom, if they so choose, to oppose other opinions.
- To help children stay on track as much as possible, to remain faithful to their objectives, the project, and the endeavors of their companions.
- To help children present their ideas clearly, without overriding those of their peers, to help them not be afraid of making mistakes and to assure them that their ideas are legitimate.
- To help children recognize the enrichment that comes from the negotiation of ideas and actions, to see the value of sharing and changing points of view, and the growth in organizational abilities, knowledge, and Linguistic and communicative skills.
...the teachers task is to be a mediator, offering carefully measured and pertinent loans of knowledge and skills, periodically producing summaries of the children's convergent and divergent elements and the points of arrival of their work, to highlight the emerging meanings, and to solicit the participation of each and every child through increasingly cooperative and productive interaction. In one essential concept, the teacher's is task to preserve, as far as is possible, the naturalness of the children's creative and practical processes, in the conviction that children have the necessary resources for going much further than we might think."
What very useful guidelines, not just for teachers, but for parents and all who support children's growth and learning!
Wednesday 18 November, Radio 4 Four Thought: Rachel Roberts talks eloquently on the importance of a democratic basis to education; and its do-ability.
This was a very lively, upbeat, presentation, a call to action in which she says (as we know) that 'it can be done'! An ex-pupil of Sands School, then teacher at a Leipzig Free School, and director of the Phoenix Trust, she now works with Queen Mary University of London enabling students from low-income backgrounds be given the trust to lead and deliver mini-consultancy projects for local businesses. And ... it is not expensive ... and ... everyone wins!
I have recently been going though my Reggio Study Tour journals and came across this entry about working with new teachers and others as part of a collegiate group of co-learners. As part of a discussion group facilitated by Claudia Giudici, a conversation arose about the frustrations of working with others who may not be experienced in their roles or familiar with their approaches of working alongside children. I remember there was much talk from the international group present about trying to inspire or persuade others to work in a different way, one often perceived as the Reggio Approach. In a sense, it was about how to inspire the other, how to encourage change in those around us. Claudia reminded us that we were all educators of children i the process of change and evolving knowledge. Therefore it was necessary for us all to be aware of our roles both alongside of children and alongside of each other as educators. In working with others, she said, there was always an inherent danger of becoming the deliverer of practice or an applier of knowledge in particular methods of working. Instead, we should strive to always be co-protagonists in the learning processes of both the children and of ourselves as a team of educators and avoid seeing ourselves as any kind of expert. Claudia gave an example of how she approached a situation with two new teachers working in one of the Pre-Schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy.
"In a discussion with two new teachers, I asked, 'what do you think about how you investigate colour with children?' Their response was 'the children must learn the primary colours and of course they must learn the names of colours too.' Of course, I knew that this is what nationally we are told but I knew that this was not the approach of the children as they are interested in the nuances of colour, the many shades of colour, the uses of colour and its expressive contexts. But, if I were to tell the teachers what to do, I would deny them the opportunity to think and find understanding. I would deny them possibilities of research and learning and for me to understand something like this from a different point of view. Instead, with the atelierista, we made a proposal that activated opportunities for the two new teachers to observe the children's exploration of colour and together we reflected on the children's approaches to colour in a real context. Hence the connection of theory and practice that developed and constructed meaning for the teachers and myself and not the application of my knowledge to another. Often, Claudia continued, pedagogisti work with the teachers on their questions, their strategies, their proposals of their daily encounters with children. "We spend much time reflecting on these, not in isolation but together."
Often, Claudia continued, pedagogisti work with the teachers on their questions, their strategies, their proposals of their daily encounters with children. "We spend much time reflecting on these, not in isolation but together." In this way, the action of the educator is not to tell, to model or to demonstrate but to generate the contexts that enable other educators and ourselves to observe, document and reflect upon the approaches to learning that children make in their own contexts. It is a process that challenges the quick fix solution of training and involves a researchful, sustained and dynamic process of professional learning that is co-constructed by peers in daily practice.