Friday, October 7, 2016

The Art of Listening

You hear but do you listen?
Herein lies the key to meaningful relationships, sharing extraordinary experiences, and making meaning of everyday living with children and colleagues.
The ability to transcribe and translate what we observe children doing and thinking comes from our ability to listen.
To see beyond the obvious is directly linked to the art of listening.
How can a teacher, whose day is filled with "busyness" master this skill?
Relationships are the key to a meaningful experiences and they are based on the ability to engage in the art of listening, respecting and caring for another.
Here are a few tips.
Take a moment before the children arrive and be thankful for the gift of teaching, gratitude motivates.

Observe your environment and make any necessary modifications to accommodate the needs of the classroom-remember it is a living space that will foster or disrupt relationships.

Greet the children when they arrive and depart; acknowledging someones presence validates them.

Slow down, the day is not a race, there is no quota for the amount of experiences that need to be documented or completed. Give yourself, and the most importantly, the children, time-
time to work, reflect and design. This is in itself is the act of listening.

Do not insult children with false praise. They don't need to hear, "that's nice, great job, and wow look at that." all the time. 
 This type of superficial praising can be detrimental and foster the desire to always need validation instead of finding it from within.
Instead engage in meaningful discourse that honors their intelligence, just as you would with a good friend.
Showing children we are interested in them,
sitting with them while they work, taking photographs and documenting is the act the praising.
Validation is praise!
Here are some suggestions for comments which lend themselves to acknowledging and validating the children's efforts and indirectly give praise.

You've spent a lot of time working with the clay. Can you tell me about your work.
This is such an interesting structure. You've added so many different elements.
Can I get you another loose part to add?
Is there anything I can do to help?
Would you like to label your work?
Should we save this for tomorrow?

At the end of their time with you, your students should leave your classroom richer in mind and spirit, motivated to continue on the journey of learning, and fortified with the belief that they matter.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Grazing-Just a Thought


I heard the strangest comment the other day from a student teacher who came for a tour of our centre.
She'd recently attended a workshop and was told that children should be free to graze all day.
What could that possibly mean I wondered?
Are they cattle?
She went on to tell me that grazing basically meant they should be able to do whatever they wanted, to be uninterrupted in their play.
That made sense because we advocate for uninterrupted experiences.
She then went on to tell me that it also meant that they could eat lunch standing up as they continued to work uninterrupted.
Then I thought that just makes no sense at all.
What sort of life lessons are we imparting to children when we set  no boundaries or guidelines for some sort of order in their day.
Meal time is not only about nourishing our bodies it is also about nourishing our souls. It is a time to gather with family and peers to shares our stories.
There is a time for everything in life, a time to play, a time to eat, a time to rest, and a time to venture.
Perhaps this was just a misinterpretation on the part of the student. 
I can't say for certain.
I understand that everyone is grappling with how learning happens, incorporating the four foundations, the Reggio Approach, inspired learning,
but we must stay grounded, remain focused and not forget that great work happens within guidelines.
Children need some structure in their lives, this gives them a sense of control in knowing what comes next,
 and it supports self regulation. A school without these guidelines is chaotic and fraught with behavior issues. 
So no, children should not be free to graze all day long.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Are Artists Born or Made?

Is the ability to draw, paint and sculpt innate or learned?
That's the question we are continually asking ourselves as we see exceptional pieces of work coming from the children.
How do they go from scribbling to pieces of work like the one in this post?
We have witnessed children with parents or grandparents who are artists draw well beyond what is expected of their age. 
Is it then assumed that the talent is inherited?
On the other hand, we have witnessed children with no artistic talent in the family produce equally exceptional work.
There are those who say anyone can be an artist, they simply need passion.
Perhaps with instruction, practice and perseverance this might be true.

There is no doubt that some people are born with a natural inclination toward artistry. However no one is born knowing how to paint or sculpt without instruction. Just as a pianist is not born knowing how to play the piano.
It is from this perspective that we changed our thinking many years ago and moved from the idea that no instruction was necessary for children when we consider the nature of art.
However, they must first go through the stages of experimentation and development. This cannot be rushed. The key is knowing when the time is right to move to new levels of working.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Beautiful Colors of Autumn

It seems that summer just began and yet here we are welcoming Autumn, the season of beautiful colors.
It is always an exciting time at Reggio Kids as we clear the garden beds, pick the final vegetables and herbs, and watch as our pumpkins plump themselves up for carving.

The light table provides a perfect canvas to create the setting from a favorite Autumn Tale.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Road Ahead

The Road Ahead

As Reggio Kids approaches its 14th birthday, I can't help but reflect on our remarkable journey.
We have seen hundreds of children grow through our schools, shared extraordinary learning stories, forged authentic relationships and embedded ourselves in the community.
We have helped to raise future generations.
What will their calling be; lawyer, doctor, scientist, business owner, engineer, artist, dancer...
 We know we have contributed in some small measure to their life journey.
Our commitment was not to fill their cups with facts but to support habits of mind that would remain with them forever.
We thank them all and bless them on their paths.

We will continue our work seeking to better our understanding of the world of childhood, remaining the place where they can tinker, discover, marvel and wonder!

What will the future bring Reggio Kids?
It is in the unknown that new discoveries are made!

We are currently in the process of designing a place where children can tinker, negotiate and invent with a vast collection of loose parts from all over the world!

Thank you to the educators who shared and continue to share our vision and in particular a heartfelt thank you to the three women who have been with us since the beginning, Rosa, Sabrina, and Mary-the best tinkerers of all!
Your contributions to our schools have been and continue to be immeasurable!
Each day brings new possibles, discoveries, discourse, and collaboration.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

No Toys!

Several months ago I challenged the teachers to remove conventional toys from their classrooms in order to move the children to new levels of thinking and working with loose parts.
There are not many toys in our classrooms to begin with and the ones that we do select are as open ended as possible. In any case I thought it would be a worthy exploration.
It's important to note that this was not a new challenge just one that was revisited.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Friends for Life

Children have a great capacity to form meaningful relationships. 
What draws certain children together, some from the moment they meet?
It can begin with a physical attraction and a sense of familiarity. 
Over time the act of sharing common experience on a daily basis solidifies the bond.
Although the memory of these friends fades with time, the lessons they learned continues:
To trust in others.
To be kind.
To share.
To be joyful.
To be mindful.
To do good for the betterment of everyone in the group.
This year we bid farewell to many of our students and they bid farewell to many of the friends who shared their five year journey.
This young girl left a tribute to two of her dearest friends.

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
Irish Proverb

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Wedding Cake

Children have ears on everything so be mindful of what you say when you are in a classroom.
Although sometimes wonderful things may happen.

Several weeks ago this group of girls waited for me to arrive at school to share this surprise with me.

My cell phone rang, 
"Come downstairs, the children have something to show you," the teacher said.
These types of calls are frequent and never ignored or put on hold until later.
"I'm on way!"
Four little girls waited anxiously at the foot of the staircase for me.
They pulled me into the room.
"Look what we made. It's a wedding cake for Matthew and Mia!"
Matthew is my son who is getting married next September.
"How did you know he was getting married," 
I asked certain that I had not yet shared the news with the children.
"I heard you talking about it when we were having lunch last time," replied Olivia.
Needless to say I was moved by their thoughtfulness.

The photos below speak to the amount of attention given to detail, the patience in execution and the intentional patterns used.

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!