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.