Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. - Rumi

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On The Reggio Approach - my story

I remember when I first started teaching after my son was born and attended a NAEYC conference in Washington D.C.  One of the presenters was on the Reggio approach.  There was a tour of the Model Early Learning Center.  A headstart program that served low-income families in Washington D.C..  The school was located in a museum.
It was incredible.  It was beautiful. 

It was a school for African American children.  It was a school for children heavily subsidized by the government.  These children and their families had been treated with so much respect and value.  The environment was phenomenal. The weaving, light table work, images of the families.  This made me fall in love with the Reggio Approach.
Amelia Gambetti worked in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States, bringing hope to these children and families. 
There were investigations, explorations and connections.  In the beginning there was very little parent participation.  But instead of giving up, Amelia went where they were: she visited their homes, their businesses and worked really hard to establish a relationship with the families. 

I fell deeper in love with Reggio.

Our American educational system often discusses plans for helping inner city children and families, programs are implemented but nothing really changes. 

Here was hands on change.

What I value about the Reggio approach is its respect for the three protagonists: the child, the parent, and the teacher.  That they work in harmony with each other. There is value for each player.  Teachers and parents work together.  There is a strong connection between home and school. 
What I value about the Reggio approach is its image of children, teachers and parents.  Strong, competent, life long learners, co-constructors of knowledge.  For me, these ideas form a strong core of how I think relationships should be between teachers and parents and teachers and children and teachers and teachers. 
The process is more important than the product. 

As a teacher my job, my role is not to have the answer, but to support children in the process of discovering the answer.  This is more important and this is where the learning takes place. As a teacher my job, my role is to have a question, to wonder and be curious along side the children.
And this is why I teach the way I teach, and have deep respect for the folks in Reggio Amelia for sharing their ideologies with the world.
Another key for me with this way of teaching is the value placed on listening.  Listening.  
It can be difficult.  Our own brain is going a mile a minute.  To stop, slow down, listen.  Take in another’s perspective, another’s point of view. I think if one listen’s, one can learn. And thus be in dialogue. 
This way of teaching and being began with a visit to the Model Early Learning Center in Washington D.C. many years ago. I will never forget that.  It changed my thinking and the way I wanted to be with children, parents, my own children, my colleagues, myself.

“As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.   I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, a child humanized or de-humanized.”  - Hiam Ginott

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Can someone please drive Miss Girlfriend - the tale of a long drive

Rodin Sculpture Garden

Driving is not one of my favorite activities.  I would say it is a perfunctory task, necessary for getting around the gargantuan town I reside in.  I am comfortable and familiar with the roads I travel – the ten and four oh five.  I can get anywhere, know where the hills and potholes in the roads are.  On my little stretch of road, I am a road warrioress.
I get into the fast lane and get there.
In my perfect world (not) I would have a driver.  I would make a great passenger.  My granny on my mother’s side didn’t drive.  She walked, took trains, maybe buses or my grandfather drove her.  I remember sitting in the front with him, then climbing in back with her.  Unfortunately, I have to drive and thus have altered my mobility karma.

But I was not a road warrioress on my trek north to pick up my son from college.
I was not even sure I could do it in one straight stretch.  Time and constrains put me in the position of having to do the long stretch.
 After committing to this long driving trek, I asked myself why was I doing this!! Couldn’t he just ship his stuff home? Couldn’t he just leave it there? ( well no, it all has to be washed, you know boys only wash what they need – underwear and socks- maybe).
So back to the road.  I had to leave at noon.  And my goal was to be in Northern Cal by dark.  Thank god it’s daylight savings and not dark until eight.  I considered that an act in my favor.  I packed some healthy snacks and sipped water.
My hands get sweaty, my feet even start to sweat. I was driving a big huge car, but in my imagination I thought it could be blown over by the wind.  It was gusty in central California. I said “ can’t it be gusty after I pass through – thank you very much”.  So I spent some time just following a truck.  I got excited when I stopped for gas in Salinas and discovered San Jose was only an hour away – that meant an hour and a half in my terms.  It was still too light to stop, so I had to keep going and I swear there was a wind at my back and something was propelling the car forward.
And  No traffic, no traffic…. by then it was six o’clock.  I just breezed through. Crazy right?
I arrived at my destination by 7:20.  It took me seven and a half hours to drive up to Palo Alto.
the patio off my room
a rose outside my door
Once I was there I had to find a place to sleep, originally I had reservations for two nights, but that changed.  Oh and it was graduation weekend.  And everyplace is booked.  The kids had to be out of their dorms by Friday am.  So I had to look for a place to sleep as well. Comical.  I went to three places before one place took pity on me and said I could use their computer for find accomadations.  I am not a sleep in the car kinda gal.  that’s what I thought I would do, if it came to it. But in reality no way.  I found a beautiful hotel, it was their last room,price decent and it was way too lovely – the Zen Hotel.  They even served breakfast.  My kind of healthy breakfast.  I even found a Whole Foods the size of Cosco.  It was huge.  It was in Los Altos. 
The way back!!! 
You really don’t want to know about that.  It took me nine, nine, 9 hours to get back home. There was traffic, there was road work, there was a bicycle race, there was the ocean and that made me dizzy.  By the time I got to the sunset exit at the 405, I had had enough. 
Even though there was street traffic, I was happy to be home. And I was exhausted.  Of course I enjoyed the time in the car with my young man. Of course he slept a lot, pulling an all nighter before getting in the car with your mom helps one relax! Ahem!!
I managed to keep my spirits up by texting my friends at rest stops and the responses made me giggle and keep going.
This experience is like childbirth to me.  I will complain about it for a while, forget about it and then be ready to do it again in the fall.
I continued to eat healthy.  We made it back in one piece. I am happy.
Rodin sculpture garden Stanford
I love the juxtapositon of children's art
next to this great sculptor's work.
children were having lunch and visiting the museum at the same time
as me. Lovely grounds.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I Love Men - especially when they are little

I love men, especially when they are little.  They let me dress them, chose the style of their hair, give hugs and kisses freely (and often).  I love men when they are little, they listen more so than not, wash up when I say, and hold their women (mother) in highest regard.  I love men when they are little, they are straight forward: “I’m hungry, I want that toy, please take me to the toy store, park, pool, read the story for the millionth time.  Little men are so much easier to deal with than grown ones.  You know where you stand. 
I am grateful for the men in my life.  My sons, my son’s father, my father, grandfather, my friends, the lovers: the men who have guided me along on my path.
Men can be difficult to understand, decipher, communicate and co-exist with: but I LOVE them.  Sometimes they drive me crazy but the men that live in my world, I would fight for and defend any and every day. 
In the gym I watch men pumping iron, flexing and trash talking.  Is it the testosterone that has them there working so hard or do they need the endorphin rush that I get?
I observe them when they are shopping, different from how we women shop, they don’t chatter about what they are looking at.  There is no “will it fit, make my butt look big, small”, I don’t think they wonder like that or if they do they don’t show it.
My sons hate it when I use my “teacher” voice. But that is apart of who I am.  I am working on it.  Maybe I am too easy going, maybe I am too nice – I don’t like to yell or fight. I don’t know – this is an area of development for me.
I have a hard time with grown men.  I get shy, I don’t say everything I want to say, I say too much.  It is the most difficult dance for me.  I keep trying.

Rainbow spiral
watercolor on watercolor paper
I am in this evolving space where I would like to have that man that is my friend, my confidante and so, so, so much more. And yet it eludes me.  I will keep working on it. Maybe in this lifetime it will come to me.
I have some good stories about men I have met and have heard some good stories...maybe I will tell a few, on another day.