By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE
Loris Malaguzzi so eloquently reminded us that our image of the child is where our teaching should begin.
It’s necessary that we believe that the child is very intelligent, that the child is strong and beautiful and has very ambitious desires and requests. This is the image of the child that we need to hold. Those who have the image of the child as fragile, incomplete, weak, made of glass, gain something from this belief only for themselves. We don’t need that as an image of children. Instead of always giving children protection, we need to give them the recognition of their rights and of their strengths (Malaguzzi, 1994).
As a facilitators of adult learning experiences I have broadened the interpretation to reflect images of learners in general. I look at my opportunities to facilitate adult learning from a perspective that the learner is capable, competent and I build on their strengths believing in their capacity to accomplish. I believe beginning with our image of the adult learner’s capacity lead to a successful Reggio-inspired summer intensive last year. From that experience #ReggioPLC and live tweet chats were born. Our intent for our tweet chats was to generate topics for discussion from the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach beginning with the image of the child. June 10th will mark the last live Twitter chat until the fall as we focus our energy on preparing for this summer’s Reggio-inspired intensive. There are still a few spots available.
Beginnings and endings are always good times to reflect. When Louise and I made the decision to challenge ourselves to try something we had never done before, it was a chance to step out of our comfort zone and to accept the resulting discomfort. When new learning collides with current practices, disequilibrium results. Instead of resisting the forces of cognitive dissonance we embraced the possibilities of change this new learning would bring. Change is a journey not a blueprint, and as Rinaldi (1998) points out, a plan is like a compass not a train schedule. Change must come from within each early childhood educator and uncertainty of direction must be accepted. Katz (2004) challenges the early childhood educator as “responsibility for changes” is “right on our own doorsteps” (p. 67). Reflecting on our own images of children (or learners) is a micro-level opportunity for change. When presented with new information that is difficult to accommodate it may be that in the moment of confusion real opportunities exist to accept new challenges and create new possibilities. Recently I shared a blog post on Twitter from a teacher who accepted a challenge to change when she eliminated themes from her practice. To date this has been my most favoured and retweeted postings.
When we use a theme approach to teaching, we are not demonstrating an image of children as capable and competent. Even though this is where I began as a new ECE graduate many years ago I have since become an advocate of letting go of our addiction to themes, accepting the cognitive dissonance that will result and creating new possibilities for children based on reframed images of competence.
When reflecting on images it is good to begin with some deep thinking about values and beliefs. What do you value? What do you believe about teaching and learning? Our live Twitter chats have been inspiring and invigorating because we have like-minded individuals with common values and beliefs sharing thoughts and ideas. Think about your core values and beliefs and then take some time to consider whether your practice is reflective of this stance. Our Twitter chats are fast paced with participants from across Canada and the US. The timing is not conducive for our international Twitter friends but we appreciate the thoughtful comments we receive when they read through their newsfeed in the morning. Please join us for our last chat before the fall and if you are not yet convinced about the power of Twitter for professional learning check out this post:
Our Twitter chats end at 10:00 pm and near the end of our time together we often come back to the image of the child. It is a good beginning. It is a good ending. We look forward to our summer experience and to starting up #ReggioPLC once again in the fall. We hope we have inspired others to try something that challenges them whether it is Twitter or new ways of teaching and learning. We would like to take some time to thank all those who participated in #ReggioPLC chats for your inspiration, commitment and insight. At this time we would also like to invite any of you to co-mediate a Tweet chat with us. We would be happy to mentor. Let us know if this challenge is one that you would like to try.