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"Your children are not your children; They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself" : these lines from Kahlil Gibran's 'on children' in his book The Prophet sprung into my head, being sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock. Perhaps because I'd been reflecting on Jacqui Cousins' comments recently? And then I remembered that a group of us sung it at the close of the Study Week 1998 in Reggio Emilia: the first group to visit Reggio after the Hundred Languages of Children exhibits in Newcastle and London. It seemed a suitable valediction to a wonderful 'first encounter' with ourselves and with a place which really seeks to celebrate children: a great song for educators and parents celebrating children.
'Read more' for 'Sweet Honey's version of the poem: Glad Tidings for the New Year!
Last week, we received a very thoughtful greeting from Dr. Jacqui Cousins, who'd been browsing our Diary articles, and she's kindly agreed for us to share it.
"In the year 2015 should we really need to explain why young children have many different voices and need to play to develop at a very variable and individual pace? They need to be given ample time and opportunities to find their own confident voices ... we need to guide them creatively and thoughtfully so that the foundations for their life long learning are firmly set. In a Refocus Journal article 'On an education for being' written seven years ago, I quoted Ghandi who emphasised the need for adults to give children a good start in life because 'children are the change!' In our very troubled world it has become increasingly clear how we adults need to link even more with each other in order to be able to solve some of the problems. The Sightlines Movement and all your creative time and energy is very important in that process. Have a very Happy Christmas, Robin, and all at Sightlines!"
Her full reflection follows:
"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.