Three days of learning…

This is the Fuqua School of Business, at Duke University, where the conference was held.


My colleague, Miss Amber and I spent three days full of optimism, wonderful insights and inspiration at the 8th North American Reggio Emilia Alliance Winter Conference at Duke University, North Carolina.

 We brought this knowledge back with us to use in our every day interactions with our young children at Miss Amy’s LLC.

“The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. It was developed after WWII by the psychologist Loris Malaguzzi, and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia in Italy. Following the war, people believed that children were in need of a new way of learning.” (Reggio Emilia approach – Wikipedia).

The two things that stand out the most in the Reggio Emilia approach, to me, is the absolute respect and understanding that each child is shown by all adults.

During the conference, there was a lot of discussion about citizenship and what it really means. According to the Reggio Emilia approach, each child is a citizen of not only his or her country but also of his or her community. This right to citizenship starts at birth and this is explained to each child as he or she grows up and each child is reminded of this often, by adults but also by other children. Children are respected for who they are and their full potential is encouraged and helped along the way as the child grows older.

According to the Reggio Emilia approach, “The competent child has a brain that is extremely plastic and able to learn and explore.” All children are capable and all children can reach their full potential. Children with special needs are called children with special rights! Children of different abilities are encouraged to work side by side and together solve problems and to find new solutions. It is believed that putting labels on children restricts their future.

 All staff members at the schools, not just teachers but aids, cooks and cleaners, are also teachers in their own rights. Is very important to mix adults from different backgrounds . The Reggio Emilia approach has a lot of support from the community of the city of Reggio Emilia . It is very involved in teaching the the young people through theater, music, dance and photography and it does so happily! There are many field trips made into the city. Even the very youngest students who are just babies get to go and explore their world and this continues all through the child’s schooling. This approach reinforces the feeling of belonging, of citizenship. 

“Children-teachers-parents are competent co-authors in/of a community of learning.”

Children are genetically wired to learn through emotional connections. It is important to give credit with joy and humor and with encouragement. Children learn how to learn by imitation. Learning is traversal. A teacher’s job is to be available for the child at each new developmental stage. It is good to have a base idea but let the children take the reins and let them go where they want to/need to. Ask questions like how are we learning rather than what are we learning. The process itself is the most important part. The free use of imagination is encouraged. There is not just one way to play with something in order to learn and to understand. The teacher is the interpreter, the one who gives meaning to what the child is discovering as well as the “encourager”. Some other key points of the Reggio Emilia approach are:

“Be with the child in their own time of learning”

“The teacher’s job is to be a bridge between different children, between what the child knows and what he/she wants to know, to lead the child on to the beginning of their journey.”

 “We all learn through relationships with others.”

“Children are explorers both through their bodies and their minds.”

“Do not separate learning and life – LIFE IS LEARNING.”

When we learn we sometimes fail and then get up and try again or like Simone, age 3 years 10 months put it, “To take a step you have to lose your balance.”

This three day conference has given me a lot of hope for the children in my own community and it has reminded me why I am an educator.

“Teaching is a profession for thinking big.” -Anon

Miss Maria, the lead teacher for the 2-year-old -classes at Miss Amy’s LLC.

Picture This!

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Spring is almost here! (I think…)

Is anyone else having trouble figuring out what to wear day to day or is it just me? One second it’s 70 degrees outside and the next it feels like 6 degrees with wind chill! What is happening?! Luckily, despite the crazy weather, we have been plugging along just fine here at Miss Amy’s and we’ve even braved the frigid weather so we don’t lose out on the fun the outdoors has to offer.

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We love chalk!

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And buckets! We love buckets too, even when they’re stuck to our bottoms.

And lately, we have really enjoyed building ramps and jumping balls all over the porch and yard. We’re getting pretty good at it!

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The crazy creatures we build have been getting stranger and stranger by the day, but we love them anyway.

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Especially when they remind us of cookie monster!

We know we’re always on the run…

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And we know that things can get crazy.

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We’ve all made this face before!

But, in all seriousness, we do it in the name of creating the best experience possible for each and every child that steps through the door and into our lives. We know that children are challenging and that it can be hard to listen to every story and have patience with every little potty problem or dinner disaster, but this time in a child’s life is so important. It’s so important to put aside the craziness and that face we’d all like to make at times and get down on their level and really listen, really talk, really be there for them. It’s hard; I know it! But, I will never stop striving to build a caring relationship with every single child. Because relationships shape the way children see the world, how they develop, the types of adults they grow into, and more than that, they make my life so much easier! With a relationship, I can sit down and ask a child questions about their behavior and we can reach a conclusion together by thinking about what we know and what we did and both come out the other side better for it. Without a relationship, I’m as significant as an ant about to be squashed beneath a boot. Relationships just make everything better. I want what is best for each child and this is one way that I can accomplish that goal. It’s important to me, so I wanted to share it with you. Thank you for taking the time to read my spiel and please follow this link to find more pictures of the past few weeks!

~ Miss Kt, Clubhouse Kids Teacher & Atelierista (Art Teacher)

 

Practicing kindness

 

I have been thinking about a good subject for this blog for quite a while now. After observing the children in my care over several weeks, I noticed all the acts of kindness they showed not only each other but also the adults in their lives.

 

I wanted a good photo to go with my story, which further delayed my blog entry. I love photography but I love interacting with the children more. To me, taking pictures removes me from the dialogue and instead of being an active participant I become a bystander, a recorder of fleeting history, an important job for someone but not my first priority.
Although knowing better, I waited for my perfect photo opportunity, which of course never came. I found myself with even more time to think about the topic of kindness, and I came to this conclusion:

Kindness comes to children naturally, but it has to be practiced to last a life time, even into adulthood and until the day we die.

Children take words at face value. When words and actions do not correspond, children do what you do and not what you tell them to do.

It is a very important part we adults play as role models not only for our own children but for children everywhere. A child learns by observing and then copying, over and over again.

We adults need to keep that in mind in our daily lives. Children are always listening and watching us. This is how children are made. It is pretty ingenious really, as long as we adults remember our roles of being kind ourselves, and not just towards children but towards other adults as well.

Having worked with 2 and 3-year-olds for over 15 years I have come to understanding that these young children have taught me so much more about life and about myself than I could ever have imagined! If I can be kind like a 2 or 3-year-old child, honestly and wholeheartedly, I am doing well.

Kindness is a work in progress, let’s keep on practicing.

– Miss Maria, lead teacher for the 2-year-old classes.