We are precious; every single one of us. We are magnificent human beings who have been given an almighty gift – the ability to create our own lives, without any limits.
I never saw Reggio Emilia as something to be followed. I didn’t see their approach as something I should adapt. I don’t think they are on a pedestal. I don’t think they are doing work that is light years ahead of what educators elsewhere are doing. I don’t care what color they paint their walls. I don’t care what kind of baskets they keep their toys in. I don’t care what type of schedule they keep. I don’t care.
I am interested. I am not however anymore interested in hearing what they do, as I am to hear what other educators are doing.
When I went to Reggio Emilia, I was inspired by so much, questioned a fair amount, and much of what I saw was irrelevant for my own context. And you know what, that’s okay!
I don’t live in Reggio Emilia – I live in Boston.
Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders. – Tom Peters
From discussion with educators in Reggio Emilia, I know they never had any intention of creating Reggio Emilia followers. It would make no sense. We should all be leaders in education, in our own context. Be inspired, but make it your own.
I recently went to a Reggio Emilia workshop . It was the first one I have gone to, out of at least a dozen, that I felt did a good job of attempting to not focus on the work in Italy, but on work done elsewhere. I was able to sit and hear a teacher talk for over an hour about her incredible work with infants exploring shiny materials.
Of course, the workshop still started out with almost an hour of going over a project done in Reggio Emilia years ago – one I have heard talked about over and over and over again.
We know the stories. The curtain project. The Shadow Story. I know them by heart by now and I don’t learn anything new from hearing them repeated. I do however start to wonder if anyone is actually applying these ideas in their own schools, and if so, when do I get to hear about them?
I really want to get away from labeling programs as “Reggio Emilia Inspired”. I think this does a number of things that have a negative impact on our local educational culture.
When I was a new teacher, I went to a weekend conference that you could choose from a large number of conferences, a small amount you were interested in going to. I remember reading one that stated it was about the approach in Reggio Emilia, Italy. At that time I didn’t know what Reggio Emilia was and I actually stated to a co-teacher, “Why would I want to copy what they are doing in Italy?” It was another year or two before I started to learn about emergent curriculum.
I think we are limiting ourselves so much by referring to our approach as Reggio Emilia Inspired. My approach has nothing to do with Italy! Yes, I started to use documentation, but my documentation looks nothing like theirs. Yes, I started using loose parts, but they both are stored, used, and chosen differently. Yes, I have an emergent curriculum – but that is certainly not something limited to the schools in Reggio Emilia.
When parents in Reggio Emilia are learning about their schools, do the educators say, “We use the Reggio Emilia Approach?” NO! So why would we?
Have confidence that what you are doing, how you are teaching, the way you choose to decorate your room, the way you document learning – it is amazing all by itself. It doesn’t need to be associated with educators possibly on the other side of the planet.
I have the up most respect for educators in Reggio Emilia.
I also adore anything written by Janet Lansbury, David Elkind, Ellen Galinsky, Debbie Miller or Susan Stacey.
I would argue I learned more from reading Emergent Curriculum by Susan Stacey than I have ever learned from any article, workshop, or conference on Reggio Emilia – including being in Reggio Emilia!
I would also argue I have become a better teacher not by visiting Reggio Emilia, but by having consistent discussions with my co-teachers, directors, and other admin and local educators.
I had documentation up in a local coffee shop for three months about a Project Group last year. I recently went into the coffee shop and the person taking my order asked me, “So what are your kids interested in this year?”
This is not someone who works in education. They were able to understand how our curriculum works, that every year would be different, and they were interested in hearing about it.
When we took my Project Work group on the city bus to a thrift store, we ended up standing outside of the store waiting for it to open for about ten minutes. I was able to have amazing conversations about children’s capabilities, their project work, and what we do educationally with other patrons of the store.
This is what we need to do.
Be present in your community. Be a voice in local education, make our children the center of our own cities.
Because the more we focus on a city in another country – the less we will focus on our own.
I am currently working on putting together my Project Work from last year into a short book. Maybe, just maybe, if there is more documentation readily available, these “Reggio Emilia” workshops can taper off…and simply become educational workshops.
I hope others will do the same! You are amazing educators. I know this because I am super active in Reggio Emilia Inspired communities. You have what it takes. Just do it. Just be!