Monday, 15 August 2016

A relationship with Reggio...

The word "relationship" popped up many times during my week here in Ontario...

a relationship with words
a relationship with the materials
the materials having relationship with each other
a relationship with colleagues
a relationship with the children
and of course a relationship with Reggio... coming to understand what it means for you and how it can be a part of your context.

I visited the "Wonder of Learning" exhibition at the beginning of the week... and of course I had a relationship with the exhibition itself, with the way Reggio was being shared, with the messages being shared etc...

My initial reaction was one of disappointment... this pedagogical philosophy with its hundred languages was not sharing with me in the languages which I communicate best in... my hands-on learning was not there... even the models which I sped and rushed towards as it reminded me of something I had seen in the MIT museum in Boston, which was very hands on, turned out to have a BIG "Do not touch" sign on it. This is the film I took in Boston last month... and I just have to share because I am still fascinated by it.... the model I saw also had wheels... but it was instead about positioning the model to reflect the light and creating a path of light from the outdoors into the indoors with a series of the machines with mirrors on...

The film will come at a later date... having problems at the moment with uploading... I will resolve this when back in Sweden!!!




I needed to spent time with the exhibition on my own at first... to interact with it o my own terms and to re-discover the messages being conveyed....

I found that it would have been good for someone to have "translated" a panel for me, so that I could better understand this language of communication... to have then gone on to interpret the rest of the panels on my own...

It was not clear to me at first that the information that said "3-5 years" was not a description of the fact the children in this project were 3-5 years old working together - which is a VERY probable way of working in my context, but referred to the fact that the children were three years old when they started the project and five years old when they finished... that these few panels (for each area) were selected points of learning from a two year project.

The panels were very much about the children's learning... and about the children... the educators sis not have a big focus... This got me thinking about equality... for me as a Reggio/Malaguzzi inspired educator it is about being co-researcher... we are partners children and educator together (and the parents an the material etc) - so the absence of the teacher in the panels felt like there was an inequality in the relationship as c-researcher. The children were given priority... and thus feeding the idea that we FOLLOW the child. Following the child, to me, means there is inequality... the child is the leader. I am not after this relationship with the children... I want to LISTEN to their ideas, I want to collaborate with them, research with them, discover with them, find theories together that we explore, that my input is valued as much as their input...
This brings me back to Hawkins "I, Thou, It" and the idea we are a triangle... with the educator, the child and the project/idea.  You can read more about this concept of Hawkins here (Hawkins Center). Its is a relationship - child, educator and project with equal status, equal potential and equal value. This idea of equality I want to return to in a later post...

As part of my learning journey I have studied several areas of learning... History, Classics, Ethnology, Sociology, Pedagogy, Epidemics, Museum Studies.... the latter gave me the chance to explore how people use exhibitions... of course I had a family/teacher bias to how I looked at this, but I found it interesting to see how panels were read by the general public...

I found panels with lots of text tended to overwhelm people, and often, even though they were interested found it hard to focus to read everything...
This was very much the case at "The Wonders of Learning" exhibition... so if you do plan to go, maybe think about going many times with the intent of exploring just one set of panels.

We develop a relationship with the panels... and of course the panels are somewhat of a monologue... which could mean you end up in some sort of isolation with your thoughts...
There is great benefit of visiting the exhibition together with others... I value my dialogues with Diane Kashin, Debi Keyte-Hartland and Cindy Green during my visit to the exhibition. It gave me the chance to take a new look, to see with their eyes... to listen to the panels with a new perspective.
This is a valuable relationship to have... friends and colleagues who support you to listen and see with a broader perspective... the gift of understanding deeper, more levels of complexity... or to give you that pedagogical somersault you never knew you needed (or was looking for).

The relationship with materials... what materials are we putting out for the children to interact with... why those materials? What is the intention?
Is there a tendency to put out a whole smörgåsbord of materials... or is time taken to think about the relationship the materials have with each other. Is there intent that the relationship is communicative... ie that the materials work together for children to explore... or maybe they are hostile towards each other and don't work well... and yet there is an intentionality with that thought too... for the children to explore ideas of non-collaboration. Sometimes less is more... especially when it is being thought out and materials are not just being placed there just because they are available. What materials are you putting close to each other? Are you presenting a material on its own... why... what materials could then further enhance the learning and wonder... in the image beloww there were agates on the light table... and further across the room a tower of perspex blocks... by moving the blocks closer to the agates there became a new wonder of seeing the agate through the block... new theories started to form about why things looked bigger and shifted within the block...

this is why we need to think about the materials we use... it is also why it is important we give ourselves time to play with the materials to make some of these discoveries ourselves



This relationship with materials and between materials is something I will no doubt be exploring more in the coming year as I research the Third Teacher in the context of our preschool...



Thursday, 11 August 2016

Images to support #Rhythm2016











Links to previous posts....

conker robots
International Fairy Tea Party (2015)
The Best position for listening
Philosophy and pre-philosophy with preschoolers - this one actually has lots of links to other posts...


Other links
History of P4C (Philosophy for Children - Matthew Lipman)
Teaching Children Philosophy - on this website there are lots of children book suggestions with suggested questions to explore various ideas...
P4C UK
University of Washington, philosophy with children
Peter Worley. /Philosophy Foundation
Peter Worley TED Talk
Socratic Method (Critical Thinking Page)
Philosophising with Children... Socratic Method

Hope this gets you going... whether or not you were a part of #Rhythm2016 I hope there is somethig you can take from these images and these links...

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

I am NOT Reggio Inspired

The last few days have been rich in dialogue with Debi and Diane… exploring our ideas and our thoughts about the pedagogy of Reggio Emilia… and also how it seems to be perceived around the world… since we sit together as Sweden, UK and Canada we bring an international perspective to the dialogue.

I have now come to the conclusion that I am NOT Reggio inspired…

I have realised that I am Malaguzzi inspired…

This has been coming on slowly… I kind of discomfort with calling myself Reggio inspired - a feeling that it was not explaining my relationship with this pedagogical philosophy. As I am one of the admins of the Facebook group Reggio Emilia Approach, I often read descriptions of Reggio that do not reflect my relationship or understanding of this approach… and I feel I do not want to be defined by this either… That the definition of Reggio by others (and yes it should look different everywhere as it should reflect your context) is not something that I want to be defined by… especially this move that Reggio IS natural materials, that Reggio IS beautiful environments with neutral colours etc etc… as for me the approach can be so many things, and is so much more complex…

I want to return to Malaguzzi… to be inspired by this man who took inspiration from many to weave his pedagogical fabric… a fabric that was always shifting and changing to meet the needs of the children, teachers, parents, setting, time…. taking inspiration not just from the pedagogical world but from the whole world… from all sorts of experts… and non-experts, across a great diversity of academic fields…

Brain research has come leaps and bounds… we know and understand so much more about the developing brain than during the time of Malaguzzi… information I am sure he would have been eager to have incorporated into this approach to learning with children.

I am inspired by many.. Malaguzzi, Hawkins etc are obvious ones… but also my husband and all his knowledge in sleep research have expanded my understanding of children's need for sleep, rest and cognitive development and health… of course all the teachers I meet… in real life and online inspire me a great deal… my own childhood inspires me… remember what I liked, what I disliked, what got me all fired up…. these memories help me connect with the children… remembering how I felt as a child… connecting with my childhood allows another perspective of today's children.
Listening to Diane's husband talk about eyes… (this is his area of expertise) and how eyes are being damaged by early reading (requiring glasses)… as eyes were not designed to read… this makes me want to research more into more about the effects learning has on the biology of the child…

Of course I could go on and on here about all the sources of inspiration - but that is not the point of this post…

MY inspiration in Malaguzzi is the fact that there is a willingness to be open to all knowledge… to actively to look for more knowledge to better understand the knowledge you already possess or to send you into a pedagogical somersault… to force you to rediscover what learning is … what teaching is.
His passion for children… the respect… the desire to create something new, not by inventing the wheel but by recycling what already exists. His belief that children are competent and that we are co-researchers. His image of the child.

Having just read Roald Dahl's BFG recently to the children I have vivid memories of the BFG travelling to dreamland and collecting dreams… which he mixed up to create new dreams for (mainly) children. So now I have this image of a teacher collecting ideas - from research, from society, from colleagues, from parents from the children, from the world around us - and mixing them up to create new ideas for the children… with the children.

OK… I need to sleep… to dream…
and the rest of the week… this #Rhythm2016 … a possible "idealand" to collect ideas…?




Sunday, 7 August 2016

Professional Development of the Third Teacher. 2

So  week has gone by…

Not so much to report really… as there have not been many children during the week to put things to the test… but the response of those that have been there has been very positive… the play has been rich and the materials have all been used in a wide variety of ways… we have noticed that the stories/books that have been read really influence how the children use the loose parts…


The red room… above… has had the addition of hama beads to the sensory table… and they have been popular… the children have created patterns, spent time feeling them and listening to them… also sorting them…

The use of lots of natural materials does mean that there is more "dirt" on the floor and table tops, but it is nothing too much to wipe/sweep clean at the end of the day…

I have found the children playing shops, playing kitchen with the loose parts… what would have traditionally been called the construction area… but by only having loose parts everywhere we have opened up the potential for all kinds of play to happen everywhere in the preschool… it is no longer one area for one kind of play and another area for other kinds of play…

This feels much more inclusive.

In the yellow room there has been the addition of boards on the wall for children to put their own art work… and also space for us to pin up inspiration.
The art shelf… this being mostly for drawing and writing… represents a little of a problem… it gets disorganised fast… so we might have to rethink this… do we want it beautiful all the time? What is beautiful… Is organised to me the same kind of organised for another? How can we make this art/writing shelf communicate with the children to make it accessible for all and easy for them to find the material/tools they need… or to inspire them to try something new…

There is the art studio with much more materials… so this is not a space for LOTS of things…
It will be something to think of during the month…

If this is the first post you are reading in the series, and you don't understand what I mean by red room and yellow room then I recommend that you read the first post in this series


Now I am in Toronto, Canada… and I won't get the chance to document the third teacher for the next two weeks… so I will be back with more when I get back to Sweden…