Sunday, January 18, 2015

How Far Have We Come?

In recent years, due largely to the power of social media, many educators have joined the Reggio journey. Fueled by powerful images of extraordinary work, teacher's have been inspired to produce similar results. The question is, have they grasped the underlying support system that brings this phenomenal dialogue to light? I call it a dialogue because without the reciprocity between the protagonists (children, families and educators), the pedagogy of listening, the gift of time, the nurturing of relationships, the supportive environment, and mindfulness, nothing meaningful can happen. It is here, in this intricate system that learning happens.  

Over the last twenty years, teachers and tour groups have flooded our centre in hopes of finding inspiration to make changes to their traditional methods of working with children. The patterns are the same; one visit, a scramble to view the documentation, the frenzy to take the best pictures, pens scribbling notes, and a few select questions.  Then they are off to their own setting in hopes of reproducing what they have seen. I often wonder what happens in the aftermath of these visits. My twenty years of researching and struggling to find meaning, still leaves me conflicted. 

The greatest investment must come from a teacher's own desire to continue her journey of learning. No craft can be practiced without ongoing education and repeated experiences. What we do not know we can learn through the pursuit of knowledge. The world is at our fingertips.
I do I hold a Masters in Education.  Instead, I consider that after 33 years of working experience with young children and teachers, I have earned a Masters that comes from being on ground zero.  I have been fueled by a desire to know the new. 
Lack of a paper degree, cannot be a teacher's crutch.

A great man once told me, 'Even a bus driver can be elevated to new levels should she so desire."

In response to the repeated question, where do I begin, I say this;
There is no perfect answer.
Every journey will be different as each teacher is unique.

Examine your beliefs and practices.
 Look closely at your environment and the manner in which you engage your children each day. 
Make your new journey a mindful one.
Surround yourself with people of the same mindset.
Be patient, anticipate set backs and know that your will never "get there."
Each day brings challenges and change and that is the wonder of the journey. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Coco and Her Snowman!

Coco’s Snowman

 4 year-old Coco showed tremendous confidence while painting the last scene of “Sadie and the Snowman”. She discussed, with the teacher, what she wanted to paint and how she wanted it done. All the while, she learned to apply the delicate water color painting techniques she had learned, with precision. The end result is winter scenery come alive!

“We build snowmen in winter time. But they melt in summer time. I wanted to paint the snowman from the book. I drew the cat and the birds so the snowman won’t be lonely.”

Friday, December 19, 2014

Apathy, It is a Teachers Greatest Downfall!


It is a teachers greatest downfall and greatest road block.

To merely accept that each day is like the one before; to go through the motions of teaching, yet never be engaged; to come to the classroom with no passion; to simply look at children but not know them; to find no joy; to refuse to learn new things; to never see the possibilities of what can be if you truly are vested in your craft.
This is apathy; the criminal that robs, not only you, but more importantly your students of the opportunity to live in a classroom that promises to support them in their journey of learning.

It is easy to take the easy road!
To repeat the same lesson plans, to live each day in your classroom like the one before.

But if you dare to break the mold of apathy, to set yourself free of this draining monster, then you will be on the path of discovering the true nature of being a teacher.

Here is a simple plan to assist you in your new journey;

Write your definition of the word teacher.
Then, be honest with yourself and write down why you chose to be a teacher.
If your answer was anything other than (because I am passionate about sharing the journey of learning with my students, then go no further and find a new career).

However, if your answer is based on passion then you are ready for a new commitment.

Write a children and teachers bill of rights; what are your obligations to your students? What is your role and what do you hope to gain from your craft?

Find as many books, blogs, workshops and conferences as you can on The Reggio Approach, Inquiry Based Learning; read, contribute and attend.

Make mistakes, take risks, be fearless. What's the worst that can happen? Isn't it better than being apathetic?

Does your classroom environment support what you are learning about this new way of teaching; reinvent it; take it apart; build it up; tear it apart; repeat this process time and time again. Your classroom is a living entity that must evolve and change.

Have a camera and notepad holstered to your hip; learning happens in every moment.
Be present with your students; listen, watch, observe, discuss, invest.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's a Colorful World

It's a colorful world and the best way to explore it is by engaging our senses.
The combination of light, shadow and sorting provides a rich experience for these young preschoolers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Inquiry Based Learning-Small Word, Big Concept

There's been such a buzz of late with the concept of inquiry based learning. Especially since the new Full Day Learning for Kindergarten in Ontario is based on this model. Truth be told, there have been small pockets of child care centres in Canada that have been following this model for a very long time. 
Call it what you will; inquiry based, project work, child initiated, inspired learning, they all find their root in the Reggio Approach.
Twenty years ago, I discovered this unique system. Today I'm still discovering the Reggio Approach. You'd think after three visits to Italy, countless workshops, trips to the US, conferences and teaching at Centennial College, that I'd be a master.
Think again.
I'm a student!
There are so many challenges in this type of system.
How do you follow the lead of the children?
Are you truly basing your work on their inquiry, their thinking and theory?
Are you deconstructing their thoughts and then assisting them in constructing new knowledge?
What materials do you offer, what languages will best support the inquiry, how are the children being engaged in the process... The questions go on.
Then you must document, record the journey of learning and use it to support further investigation.
It is so easy to get caught up in the wonderful  posts of pinterest, facebook and blogs but you should proceed with caution.
This work, if authentic is based on the experiences of the working group and should be used only if they fit your experiences. 
You cannot fit the work to the experience. Chances are it may not turn out as planned.
Just my thoughts.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nature's Gift!

Do you find yourself searching for those perfect "loose or natural materials" to provoke thoughtful work?
Look no further than the front yard.
Nature provides the perfect gift, an abundance of autumn leaves.
In the hands of young children, the possibilities are endless.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Play is Not a Simple Act!

Play, is it the frivolous work of childhood?
If we consider Bob Hughes' (play theorist and activist) "Taxonomy of Play Types" in which he outlines 16 types of  play, we can only marvel at its true complexity:
social, socio-dramatic (refers to play involving acting out scripts, scenes, and characters), rough-and-tumble, exploratory, object, creative, communication, deep, recapitulative ( reflecting on actions and giving new form and meaning), symbolic, fantasy, dramatic, imaginative, loco-motor, mastery and role play.
How many of these do children engage in during the course of a day ?
What is the role of the teacher in this complex process? 
Teachers must be keen observers. This does not imply that they should sit idly by waiting for play to happen. They must be master facilitators who make play ( thoughtfully planned, rich in context) possible. This type of teacher nurtures mastery in play. She also understands that environment must support

spontaneous play, initiated by children, so they may construct their own knowledge, test theories through trial and error, engage in discourse, respect opinions, and change the course of their actions for new results.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Way up High In the Apple Tree

Autumn, the season of colors and harvest. And what would it be without the bounty of the apple trees?
Well before children can make this type of a tree, they must master the basic skills of working with Plasticine, an unyielding modelling media. Ripping, rolling, pinching, pressing and of course using the pasta maker are some of the necessary skills to create this type of result. Here's a little tip, warm it in the microwave!