By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE.
We are living in extraordinarily difficult times profoundly impacting the three subjects of education; children, families and teachers. Every day, I find myself in a paradox. I see images and words shared on social media that demonstrate that choices are being made to continue within the restrictions and limitations to see the child as powerful, competent and capable. Then I am struck by concerns as I see a preponderance of table tasks and worksheets. I worry that during the time of COVID that the hundred languages of children are being depleted. Now more than ever, we must make sure that the child is seen as expressive and powerful. It is therefore, a good time, to revisit the poetic words of Loris Malaguzzi which you can find in this December 2019 edition of the ReChild newsletter. This is an image of the child as competent, capable and rich with a hundred languages and hundred, hundred more.
In another earlier edition of ReChild from 1996 we learn that Malaguzzi loved to speak of children “with their heads held high”. This is a child that is not impoverished by the limitations of COVID but “equipped with rich and wonderful possibilities: the possibility and the hope of inhabiting the future and being protagonists of their own history”. A core principle of the Reggio Emilia Approach has always been the inter-relationships between the three subjects of education, families, children and educators (Gandini, 2002). Images can be framed and reframed as we work together to understand the impact that our images of ourselves, children, families, and colleagues has on our lives … as educators and humans.
The pandemic has changed our lives. If we keep these images alive and see ourselves as capable and competent then children, we will not be impoverished by the limitations. We have the power to make a difference. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined prior to COVID that I would be my grandson’s teacher, guiding him through virtual kindergarten during the synchronous sessions with his assigned teacher and offering him authentic, hands-on play and learning experiences during the time he does not have to be before a screen. I am grateful for the opportunity to take him to an outdoor school once a week so that he can learn with others in and with nature. The choices that I made and continue to make in the days that he comes to play and learn with me are considerate of his identity, the reality of our circumstances and the image that I hold of his capacity and competence.
Among the many choices to be made, one in particular will be fundamental for our future: the identity, the reality, the image that we give to children and their education. Over the course of the centuries, human culture has produced a number of different images of the child and childhood, most of which, however, see the child as fragile and impotent, an identity that is often without substance and of little worth ~ Carlina Rinaldi
I continue to revisit and redefine images. I have had to confront negativity about my own capacity as someone who has been long removed from the classroom. I had to reconsider what early childhood education means to me as I think deeply about children and about childhood. To support my thinking, I continue to look to the philosophy of the Reggio Emilia Approach. I revisit and reread articles and books that impacted my thinking when I started the journey decades ago. I now realize that I have been presented with a COVID gift. I have the opportunity to write a redemptive narrative for 2020 that focuses on the positive of this difficult reality for myself, my grandson and his parents. I strive to create our own version of school that above all is a place of humanity.
The school of children and adults must be, above all, a school of humanity, a place where values and meanings are actively shared. A school where adults and children come back every morning with the pleasure of meeting again to talk, do, and reflect together, an active context that helps us rediscover the richness of human relations inherent to the action itself. Action as the beginning of relationships, in opposition to passivity and rituality ~ Carlina Rinaldi
I invite the readers of this blog to join me in the action of rethinking and reframing images. I have developed an online course entitled Capacity and Competence in the Early Years. The intention is that there is a sharing of reflections about the image of the child, the image of the teacher and the image of the family. To do this we must continue to believe in our own capacity and competence.