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