Saturday 7 October 2017

It's More than just BURLAP

SD67 and SD53 have begun a joint project called Making Learning Visible.  It is under the TADL umbrella because it is all about viewing the child as a competent citizen full of strengths they can offer the community, and full of curiosity about the world.

A group of us spent two days with Dr. Laurie Kocher from Capilano University.  She spent time in teachers' classrooms asking questions, and helping each teacher ponder their own questions.  She also gave an after school session for anyone interested in learning about the principles of  teaching using a Reggio Emilia approach.

Here are some of the things that have stayed with me: some complex big ideas and some things that clearly overlap with the work we have been doing in Through a Different Lens for the past 8 years.  

The Image of the Child

In Reggio Emilia, children are seen as protagonists, collaborators, communicators, citizens, and researchers with 'endless potential'. Teachers are viewed as partners, nurturers, guides and researchers, and parents are genuinely seen as partners, because they contribute and are involved in meaningful and complex ways.

Any district work or decisions made by teachers and administrators reflects how we view the child and what we value.  Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the schools in Reggio-Emilia, in an article "Your image of the child:  Where teaching Begins" says that you teach based on your image of the child:

"There are hundreds of different images of the child.  Each one of you has inside yourself an image of the child that directs you as you begin to relate to a child.  This theory within you pushes you to behave in certain ways; it orients you as you talk to the child, listen to the child, observe the child.  It is very difficult for you to act contrary to this internal image."

Language We Use To Describe Children

In the city of Reggio Emilia, children that we often describe as children with special needs are described as "children with special rights".  These children are the first to receive a spot in municipally funded schools along with those children who do not have extended family support in the community.  Why? Because this reflects their values of supporting and nurturing children and building community.

The language of "children with special rights" reflects their  image of the child as curious and full of strengths rather than the North American view of deficits and "fixing".

Ways That Children Communicate

"The 100 Languages" is the idea that children communicate and represent their ideas in a vast variety of ways such as talking, dancing, drawing, and sculpting.  Children learn in 100 different ways and can express their thinking in those 100 ways.  This reflects the child's "endless potential".

This writing by the founder of Reggio Emilia describes the 100 languages.  We have certainly seen the results of thinking in this way in Through a Different Lens over the years as we have witnessed students come alive when their strengths are recognised and valued in the classroom and in learning.  We have seen them become stronger, more confident, and more appreciated and respected by others as they show their strengths though using art, digital media, photography or music to represent their understanding.

The Environment

In Reggio Emilia the environment is seen as "the third teacher"; it is an environment that reflects the values that we want to communicate to our children and a space that is responsive to learning together.  It is an environment that fosters creativity and relationships with parents, teachers, the learning materials and each other.   In these classrooms, materials are there to provoke investigation or curiosity and also to be used to help the child express their thinking.

Laurie Kocher talked about Pinterest as communicating a view of what Reggio classrooms look like, but that is actually not true of Italian classrooms.  The idea of the environment is to create an authentic learning  space that reflects your values, one where both the teacher and children want to be to create and learn, and where children have a voice in their surroundings, and their learning is documented.  It is more than just burlap on the wall.  It is a co-created space for curiosity and learning.

It was a full 2-days of deep wonderings by the teachers, with reflections on our values, our practice, and our image of the child.    We will continue to work with Dr. Laurie Kocher throughout the 2017/18 school year.

Contributed by Judith King, SD67

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