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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!"
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.