Friday, August 5, 2016

Have Faith

A few weeks ago I stepped into one of my preschool classrooms and I happened upon a child working on an elaborate structure using loose parts. Not an uncommon sight in the school. However this particular one stopped me because it was not only beautiful to look at but it was precise in its execution and it led me to wonder, did the child actually do it on her own? Not that I didn't  think she was capable, I was just concerned that the teacher support may have been too heavy. 
This would not have been acceptable as it would have limited the child's ability to solve the problems she may have encountered in the design process.







I stopped and observed her work as she erected two additional structures.
The results were the same-her level of thinking was extraordinary.




 We should always have faith in the capabilities of young children especially when they live in a space where loose parts are ingrained in the school culture!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Potential



~Potential is lost in the absence of effort and passion.
I'm not sure where I came across this powerful piece of insight, but it hits home in so many ways.

Imagine the world without Michelangelo, Dante, Pasteur...
What if they'd chosen to squander their talents because they couldn't be bothered to research, invent and create.

How many of us attack each day with a desire to do our best and be our best? 
I know, it's exhausting to exist in this state but so well worth it. It is here that greatness is born-most often not the greatness of the masters but the greatness found in the ordinary moments of living in a school that is filled with passion by all those who inhabit it.

Children are born with this type of passion; the need to know all, be all and do all.
It is when they encounter apathetic teachers and adults that they lose their potential.
I speak of
the teachers who arrive each day content with mediocrity.
The teachers who forget to read, research, and investigate in order to expand their minds and give the children the best of themselves.
The teachers who watch the clock, forget to say good morning to lift a child's spirits.
The type of teachers who are not present and in the moment.
The type of teachers who are not invested in the art of negotiated learning.
The type of teachers who do not stay after their students are gone to attend to the environment, reflect on the children's work and prepare for the next day.
These are the teachers who lack passion and so their potential is lost and so too is the potential of their students.

Let us consider an alternative.
 I offer the the teacher who arrives well before her shift begins to prepare for her day with the children which will surely bring a multitude of new adventures and possibilities. Along the way to her classroom she stops to greet a few of her coworkers. Her passion has inspired them to arrive early as well. They notice the bag she is clutching. The school is quiet. It's only 6:30 a.m.
She has a mischievous smile on her face because the bag she carries holds a new supply of loose parts that she discovered at the nursery the night before. She already imagines what the children might do with them. This is not an uncommon practice for her. She is always in search of new materials for her classroom.
She opens the door and pauses for a moment happy to take in the wonder of learning.
She sets down her treasures and flicks on the computer eager to review the photos and documentation of yesterday's experiences.
She prints them to share with the children during morning discussion.
Students begin arriving with their parents in tow. They are full of questions about yesterday's discoveries and she is more than happy to share in their joy.
In the blink of an eye
the day ends with not enough time to catch each smile, each heartbeat, each new discovery. 
But she is content. She gave it her best and expected no less from the children. They in turn gave her their best knowing that she was her best and together they lived the day to their full potential.

What type of teacher are you-share your wonder!







Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dare to Be Different!


Friday, June 24, 2016

Tutti-All of Us

Tutti
What a great Italian word. All of us!
We are the sum of all our shared experiences and memories, the very things that define us, not only as people but as a school community.
The children, families and teachers, present and past, have been part our journey. We live like every moment counts creating context for our notebook.

We are tutti inseme-all together
Tutti uniti-all united
Tutti una famiglia-all one family

No matter where life leads us we will always remember tutti-all those who have lived in our spaces.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Conversation with Loose Parts

I call it a conversation because teachers and children are in a constant state of exchange and interaction with loose parts. Without these two elements the materials are simply stagnate objects.
When loose parts are selected and organized in an inviting and thought provoking manner they have the power to entice children to explore, think, engage, create, exchange ideas, communicate, problem solve and scaffold learning.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Exploring Loose Parts

There are stages in the evolution of loose parts-much like blocks, drawing and clay-children begin by exploring them with their senses, testing their properties, and piling before we see the emergence of representations.

Friday, June 17, 2016

We Begin with Drawings


There are many ways for children to represent their thinking, tell us their stories and share their ideas.
Our children find great joy in giving their drawings dimension using loose materials.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Nature and Loose Parts


A wonderful way to start the day.
Enjoy!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Five Partners In The Journey of Learning

There are five partners in the journey of learning; teachers, peers, the environment, families and the community.
On any given day, during the exploration of a topic or experience, four of them, teachers, peers, families and communities work at different levels of involvement. The environment (indoor and out), however, is prevalent at all times.
It is the master; the living space that will inspire the children to navigate through their thinking, doing and being.
I call it a living space because it should be in a constant state of change. It must respond to the needs of the group and adapt itself to their preferences. For example some school years, there may be a higher need for  space for blocks, a larger area for loose parts, an expanded area for clay, more outdoor possibilities.
Whatever the case may be, the environment should be fluid. It can never be static.



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Beautiful Dance

What is the beautiful dance?
It is the point in time when a teacher finds balance. The moment when she discovers there is no need to rush through her day.
It  is the time, when in a single breath, everything around her moves in slow motion, and as she exhales she finally sees the wonder of learning all around her.
She becomes unhurried and gives herself over to the magic of being both a teacher and a learner.
She discovers that each child is a unique being full of potential and she commits herself to supporting their hundred languages of learning, doing, exploring and expressing.
And as all the parts come together, her inquisitiveness, her sense of humour, her quest to better herself, her commitment to the process of learning, her joy in all things, then she is in the beautiful dance!





Sunday, May 29, 2016

So What?

My teachers often ask, "How do I know if an experience or interest or theory is worth exploring?"
Naturally, I'd like to say follow them all but the truth is it is impossible.
Here are a few of my guidelines.

To begin you should consider,
The What
What is the child's interest, thinking and theory. Is it just a passing thought or moment?

The next step is the 
So What
It is here, in the ability to identify the So What, that decisions are made to move forward or not.

What is it about a particular interest that stands out above others?
Is there an opportunity to scaffold learning, support development, explore the 100 languages, to assist the children in bridging their thinking to a new level of understanding, to provide real life experiences, involve families, community.....
If the answer to all or a few of these questions is yes then we proceed. 

Once this is done we look at the 
Now What

We gather the protagonist(s) and have a discourse to discover what he, she or they may already know and think. Here is where the art of asking good questions kicks in.

Once this is done we consider the potential path of our shared journey of learning and discovery; where do we hope to go? What do we seek to accomplish? Although we may have a plan it does not always come to fruition as each day brings new twists and turns and we end up in many unexpected places. It is here in on this meandering road that magic happens!
A living web always comes in handy to keep everyone focused and returning to the questions and formulating new ones.

The Final What
What we do to bring the project or experience to a close.
We review the work with the children; to ensure we have covered all the questions initially posed and those that evolved as they engaged in the 100 languages; to revisit thinking and theories, old and newly formed.
When it is all said and done and we have exhausted all possibilities, we look to the finale, a culminating event,
an opportunity to showcase our journey of learning. 

Let us not forget that along the way we use the powerful tool of documentation, to not only share our work, but to fuel the next steps.
That is a discussion for another day!

The What
Bianca found many fallen tree branches and twigs during a morning walk through the forest. She gathered a few for the classroom.
Her comment delivered a powerful message.
~You shouldn't hurt nature or the world will be sick. 

The Journey began....





~We are grateful that we have been blessed with the opportunity to own the schools that are Reggio Kids. Every day is a new adventure! 
We have found our joy!

Friday, May 27, 2016

When a Child's Voice is Heard

Long ago when themes ruled the classrooms every child produced a carbon copy of work and teachers believed they all had one voice. The truth is they had no voice and no choice. They existed in a space that set clear guidelines.
The teacher's role was was to fill the child's empty cup with facts.
The child's role was to listen and follow.

The pebble of change was cast into the water many years ago, when educators began to hear the whisper of a better way to engage with children in the classroom; the Reggio way. Call it what you will inquiry based, child directed, inspired learning. You can write the documents in any which way but it all comes from the wonder of learning that is Reggio.
We will all find our own way of bringing Reggio home. There is no right way or wrong way-just your way of taking the guiding principles of this unique approach and melding it with your own beliefs.
However, in order to truly embrace change there must be one fundamental shift, the child must be respected as a contributor, participant, and co learner in the journey of learning, instead of an empty cup.
If you master this then the rest will come.
All children have powerful voices. 
It is a wondrous moment when the teacher finally hears them.