Today I returned to the school that embraces the Reggio Emelia style of teaching . This time I had Randy in tow. I knew the day would be full of adventure as we pulled in and I couldnt drag him away from the fence that the peacocks were strutting around in. Other surprises met us before we even got to the door. There were two little guys sitting outside by the garden documenting " something" on their little clipboards. As we went in we were told to " have fun" and that we did. I took off to the purple room - my favorite. The children were outside and one of the teachers was doing an assessment on a child. I had taken all this in ( the room ) when I visited last time, so this time , I was watching Randy, and his expressions- trying to read what he thought. He barely made it in the room and was started as two little girls and one boy were in the bathroom ( two on the potty) and having a conversation. He said " Does she know they are in here...?" - he whispered. Yes.. I reply, she does. Randy is still getting a grip on who comes to inspect us for what ... and he sometimes gets the standards a little confused. The only clear cut inspector that comes for us now days is the water heater man, and well - it is the water heater man. As Randy was taking it all in, he would ask me questions. Mostly they were" We can't do that can we?" And for the most part he pointed out safety issues - It was hard to explain to him that they were NAEYC accredited ( not ECCRS ) and in another state
( which had different height requirements for equipment.)
After we left and drove away we were reflecting on our observations. Of course, he said where are their music instruments? That is an important part of our life . Each room had two or three instruments but they usually were just mixed among the materials and you didnt hear singing. Not the teacher. Not the kids...
Then he asked, " Where were the books?" We have books in almost every center... or maybe even every center. Hmmm.. I didnt notice. Where were the books? I know they had some because I saw two of the teachers reading one during group time.
Then was the kicker question. " Did you see any children smiling and having fun?" What is so " sally stop the street car " about that one is- I asked the same question on my first trip. I thought maybe I was being too critical or just not seeing it the way I should. I did ask a couple colleagues on the last trip what they thought and they said the children were more focused.
So, at 3 , 4 , and 5 years old - do I want focus or happy?
The teachers were not mean at all.... they were encouraging.
We are not mean and encouraging but you hear happy all over the place in our house.
Do our kids focus?
Can you focus and be happy?
Fast foward - we are headed back for the training tonight. I am excited . Randy- reluctant but a team player.
The Atelierista who was there was supposed to be the only true one in the states at this point. The lady from Italy ( dont remember her name right now and too tired to google it!) came over here and worked with her for a year. An Atelierista is an artist that facilitates the curriculum development through different art mediums. ( That was my own very weak definition.)
Here was the structure of the workshop. She talked about materials and how you should think " outside the box " when offering materials to the children. She challenged us to take 1 inch squares of paper to manipulate as many ways as we could. We did.
Then, she talked about making things out of found objects. We each were to take something off the table and go through some questions from an artist ... like what was this originally? Where did it come from? What is it made of? I had a piece of orange vinyl that was embossed. I had no idea what it was. I thought it looked a but like a reflector. I took my scissors and cut slits and before I knew it I created a chinese lantern. Now, as I think back, it is really cool the thought process that got me there. Reflector, light, lantern. I guess that is somewhat how kids think.
Randy made something out of corrugated cardboard. It also had styrofoam packing peanuts. He broke the rule... she said one material; :) He also made a small purse out of my leftover scraps. Not only did he get in touch with his feminine side, but called it his stimulus package . It was about the size of a matchbox.
As we finished Jennifer walked around and stopped to take a close up of my lantern and ask me about it . Randy, I think was offended as she walked away, he moved his little cardboard creation a little closer to mine.
When they asked for sharing I was a little nervous as I was the novice in the room but I did speak up. She asked for our reflections or thoughts. I said , " As an adult , I struggled with what I thought this was .. and where it came from. I would imagine as a child, that thought process is a little more difficult as they dont have as many experiences to draw on. As the teacher in the room, I think this would create a great opportunity for language. You could help GUIDE ( WRONG WORD) the children . You could ask what they thought it was...? etc" So, I got shot down. She said she wants to caution us about " guiding the children" in any way. GREAT JOB DEBBIE, opening your mouth. You KNEW to sit there an listen. As she talked , the rest of the time, these are the things that went through my head.
1. Is it so wrong to talk to the kids and create a language rich classroom?
2. If I dont teach them language , who will?
3. Why did I use the work GUIDE, that wasnt really what I meant.
4. It is hot in here?
5. Did I really just pay 100.00 to tear paper, create a chinese lantern and be told that language isnt important?
6. I would rather be listening to Natasha Crosby teach anything else right now.
So, I left discouraged.
I love the open ended materials. I love creating a sense of wonder. I love not " fixing everything" for the kids...
I also love the sounds of giggles and games. I love the long conversations and exchanges I have with the kids each day. I love our music and the bands the kids create.
I pretty much love the way I do what I do right now. I have evolved so much in the past ten years. Maybe ten years from now I will be ready for Reggio,