I have to say that this weekend’s workshop changed how I understood Reggio Emilia philosophy and pedagogy. It feels like that it taking me to the outpace to look at the earth.
The key words of Reggio Emilia to me before were:
environment as third teacher,
follow children’s interest,
After this workshop, here are these key words that strike my thinking on Reggio Emilia philosophy:
image of the child;
ideas/concepts are more important than the concrete manifestation of ideas
relationship is the key——children and adult but people; teaching and learning but teaching-learning process (ako);
listening to children
documentation in Reggio Emilia——visualise the documentation, visible listening, not documentation of products but of processes, of mental paths;
“Teaching behaviour changes when we hold different image of the child”
This part is almost therapeutic to me as a parent and a teacher.
We have heard lots of talking about positive thinking and using positive language to children, but this idea of IMAGE OF THE CHILD gets to the core of how to change our teaching (to me at this stage is more of parenting) behaviour.
If you hold an image of the child as innocent, threat, developing adult, the child might be seen as needing to be taught, naughty, having limited potentials, too small, too young, etc so that we teachers might start to supervise, to discipline, to label, to withhold “age inappropriate” resources, etc.
It reminds me to keep the awareness about children who is capable, curious, strong, open-minded, energetic, powerful, etc.
It might seem on the first place that it is all about using positive wordings. But it doesn’t hurt if we start from thinking this way. Yes, use positive adjective words to describe the children you see first. Then with practise and reminding of ourselves, we will start to really see and listen to children. It is about professionalism, about positiveness, but more importantly to me, it is the solid foundation for the whole Reggio Emilia philosophy and pedagogy; it is the starting point of establishing the relationship, setting up environment for children, making provocation for their learning, and documenting their learning.
For example, if I need to set up the environment in an ECE setting, I should find out what are the children’s current interests are, which leads to that I should be observing and (really) listening to children (“ little things are extraordinary; seen ordinary as extraordinary”. ) But meanwhile I should also understand and bare in mind that “concept/idea” are more important than concrete manifestation of ideas”. So I don’t just “see” a child who likes water and then set up a water table straight away. If I continue to listen and see, he/she might be curious about other aspect or connections of water.
Reggio Emilia philosophy is about using our five senses to learn and teach.
Dr. Hill used the concept of PLAY as an example. What is PLAY? Is play about playing toys and activities. How to play? Is it about how to play a specific activity (which means teachers focus on letting children finishing an activity set up for them) or is it the interface between an individual and the society, for both adults and children? Playfulness is a concept, play a specific activity is the concrete manifestation of an idea.
The job for teachers is to hold a concept or idea which comes from the image of the child and transfer it into practice which should not be rushed and alway be open and flexible. This transition part sometimes in reality means what we learn in ECE class is one thing, and when we enter the real teaching world, it is another.
What we can do to avoid this separation of pedagogy and practice?
Aesthetics, a focus on aesthetics is the answer to this.
“Aesthetics, the senses, are a vital part of human nature; vita means life”
My understanding of this part is that when it comes to practise, that piece of board we could hold on to in day-to-day practice is that if there is beauty in what we showing, setting-ups and provide; if these are all five senses related?
But when doing so, we might feel like taking qone of the concepts and quickly make it concretised. A set-up/ provocation needs to be five senses related, so we quickly set up something according to this and while doing so, we might get annoyed feeling that children is in the way of us setting up the environment? We tend to ask ourselves “what is the problem” then go ahead to find a solution for the problem. Education is not about one answer to one question. It’s about embracing the complexity and find a way to work with the complexity.
In our practice, it is to listen, to search the meaning of life (help children search for meaning of what they do, what they encounter, what they experience ) , to document (not just children’s doing but “your knowledge, your concept, your idea…you don't show the child, but the relationship and the quality of your relationship with the child”)
IMAGE OF THE CHILD to me is like a rubber band in my wrist. Just repeating this four words, it reminds me of holding the image of the child being competent. Seeing children as competent does not just mean that we are professional but also help us change the way we see and think of children.
Everything is connected in a cycle and if we started with the right point (image of the child) and go on the right path (focus on ideas not to quickly concretise them, listening to children and ourselves, documenting children and our thoights, helping children search for meaning of life, etc) and then we would know children and ourselves better so that this good cycle will continue going throughout the most important early years for children and for their future.