Friday, July 28, 2017

Conformity or Change

Are you riding the wave of conformity or going against the grain?

Conformity is so easy. No hurtles, no obstacles, just riding the wave of what is common and easy. 

Imagine what it would feel like to be a teacher who sets new standards, someone who dares to challenge the norm and gives rise to a new reality of working with children.

Taking the challenge to change will bring about an infinite amount of experiences like the one you see below.

Ultimately, the change has to happen for the right reasons. As teachers and people we have to be true to what we believe. We cannot jump on the wagon because everyone else is doing so. 

I was never one to conform to practices that did not work in unison with my vision of what an educational system for young children should be.

For me shattering the bonds of conformity was liberating!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Questions are not Always the Answer

Over the course of the last year, I've been listening carefully to the discourses that transpire between children and teachers. 
My observations have led me to question the process of questioning young children while they work.

Many times the teacher's chattering, about much of nothing, overshadowed the children's work. Other times the silence could be sliced like a piece of cake.
Then I wondered, do we question other adults incessantly like we question young children or do we observe them to discern what they are doing and thinking? After all aren't our actions conveyors of messages?
Perhaps meaningful observations are what we should focus more of our time on. 
Of all the scenarios I observed, 
few had thoughtful 
 context, common sense and respect for the intelligence of the child. Not because the teachers didn't care but more because they didn't  know how.
Meaningless questions and empty discourse does more harm than silence.

Questions such as what colour did you use in your painting hold little sway in sparking an intelligent exchange. 

What is the answer then to the dilemma of asking good questions.

The truth is the focus must lie on thoughtful provocations, intelligent materials, a sound knowledge in child development so key areas can be easily identified without prodding the child for obvious answers. We must know our students and the hundred languages they engage to know the world and make sense of their experiences.

If teachers master this then the rest comes easily and learning truly happens.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Next Day

We returned to our loose part studio the next day to continue our work on the story,
The Giving Tree. The girls decided they wanted to make a life size representation of the tree. They selected materials that were made of wood keeping in line with our original provocation of using only gifts offered by trees.
When they finished the tree, they turned their attention to making the boy. They agreed that he would have to be large enough to fit under the tree.
It was interesting that Hannah drew a heart on his shirt.
~Why did you place the heart there. He doesn't have one in the book?
Hannah~I put it there because he should learn to have a heart. That way he can be happy for all the gifts the tree gave him and love the tree. Then he won't be selfish!
Venus~That's right because the tree sacrificed herself for him.
When the tree was done and the boy was placed beneath her branches, I asked the girls if we were done our work or did they want to continue on.
They told  me they were done. And so we ended the experience. 
As their teacher was I content with the outcome?
Most certainly I was. We had spend two days together discussing the value of the gifts offered by nature. We read a loving story and engaged in the use of loose parts. That all afforded me insight into their level of thinking and understanding.
A few days well spent!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Nature's Gift

The Love of A Tree
April 25, 2017

Yesterday Venus and Emma worked in the studio. There was no plan for the morning so I offered them an invitation.
~Can you find materials made of only wood?
They were receptive to the suggestion and pieced
together a wood totem using cardboard cylinder, wood slabs, tree bark, wine corks, and a few other pieces.
As they worked,
I asked~Where does wood come from? 
The girls thought about it for a moment but were not
I knew they knew the answer but nudged them a little.
~What grows in the forest, is tall and full of leaves? 
~Trees, wood comes from trees~ Emma
 ~Nature offers us so many beautiful things doesn’t it?
When the girls were done they returned to their classroom with the promise of continuing the work the next day.
The next day I asked the original girls as well as Hannah to meet me in the studio where we read.
The Giving Tree
The discussion, after reading the story, outlined how the girls understood the gifts offered by the tree; the shade of her branches, the fruit that she bore, the wood to provide the shelter of a home and the trunk of her tree to fashion a boat.
They learned a new word, sacrifice. The tree offered all she had for her love of the boy.
We talked about how selfish the boy was because he cared only for himself.
The girls drew representations of the story. 
Join us tomorrow as we plan to make a loose part representation of the story line.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


For those of us who are seasoned in working in an authentic inspired learning context, it's often frustrating when we encounter, for a lack of a better word, copy cat work.
Social media is as much as tool as it is a hindrance to teachers.
Images inspire us to want to do the same work with our students but work without context and meaning offers very little to children.

Similarly taking courses and participating in workshops may often leave teachers feeling more frustrated and "lost" than inspired.
My thinking is that the best teachers of teachers are those who have worked in the trenches.

To know a methodology well you must live it, practice it and believe in it before you can teach it to others.

Perhaps adopting this mindset can help you in your quest.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Teachable Moments

There are many moments during the course of a day when teacher's find, what is called, teachable moments. They are embedded in the ordinary, in the things that children do simply because it is wonderful to be a child.
Such was the case when this group of children put together their snowman, Snowcone.
He could have been just a snowman. Instead the teacher took the opportunity to entice the children to give their snowman a sense of identity and to create a short story.
The art of telling a story that comprises of a main character, a setting and plot is key in the development of literary skills.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Meet the Monsters

Meet a few of the Monsters of Reggio Kids.

Why give voice to an interest such as monsters?

 After all, are they not just imaginative creatures that are best left in story books? 
Children's fascination with monsters, mystical creatures and superheros is unprecedented, something that pop culture manipulates through movies and toy sales.

Monsters capture the attention and imagination of young children because of their odd appearances and super human traits. When children create monsters through drawings, clay, or loose parts they feel empowered. Sometimes this helps them to conquer their own fears and inhibitions.

 Further to this, these spectacular creatures provide a perfect opportunity to support literacy through rich dialogue and story telling. Often times stories told using monsters as the main characters, end up containing battles over right choices, kind acts, good verses evil, building on children's moral character.

As we work through the stories with the children we get insight into what makes them tick!

Is their monster a reflection of themselves or a struggle they are experiencing?
Does their monster possess power over the elements; fire, water, wind-lending us a peak at children's scientific knowledge.

Their monsters may know their shapes, alphabet,or phonetics.

The children are currently working on a story board using their monsters as the characters. The moral of the story; everyone is different and they should not be excluded because of the differences.
Instead unique qualities are what makes them, monsters included, so very special!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Silliness-It's A Must

How often do we hear teachers telling children to stop being silly?
What's wrong with silliness?
Isn't it the right of children to be silly?
After all they are the masters of finding humor in the simplest of things; a funny face, an absurd noise, or a joke. They all evoke peels of laughter.
As we age we forget how to be silly, often taking ourselves far to seriously. We become disconnected from our childhood and all the wonderful memories of our carefree days.
All that silliness nourished our souls, allowed us to live abundantly and without reservation.

I for one, at the age of 56, still have my sillies.
This gives me the ability to connect with children.

So stop taking yourselves so seriously and have some fun.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Let it Snow!

The first snowfall is always the most exciting.
Loose parts combined with a splash of light.
Simply beautiful!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Embrace Change

I've just returned from London England and as I often do when I venture into the world to explore new cities and cultures, I can't help but stop to reflect on our educational practices in comparison to our European colleagues.
As I meandered through the streets of London and into the many beautiful parks, countless museums and cathedrals, I couldn't help but feel a little envious of the richness of learning possibles that exist in this beautiful city.
Imagine children sitting in the National Museum sketching artifacts, and children running through parks filled with monumental tributes to past Kings.
My mind was racing with the what ifs for new projects and experiences.
I was again reminded that we can not bring home that which does not belong to us but we certainly can learn from it.
Before leaving on my trip I ran across several articles that more or less held the attitude of 
"not caring about the Reggio Approach" because it has nothing to do with our context.
It's a powerful statement to make because we must be mindful in remembering that the discovery of this treasure sparked a wave of change in education.

Had I never encountered this unique system, I may never have reached the deep level of understanding that I have for the culture of childhood, nor would I ever have been able to propel my schools to reach the level of richness they now enjoy.
I am Reggio inspired however I am first and foremost a direct result of the many years of hard work, research, relationships and experiences that I have had both as a teacher and a person.

So whether you follow a philosophy or have your own perspective, the one common consideration is that dedication and hard work bring great rewards. Educators are limited only by an unwillingness to educate themselves and their acceptance of the status quo.
As a leader I can accept effort but  not complacency.
So I say be fearless, make mistakes each one will open a new door and take you in new directions that give you a better understanding.
Expand your mind, read books and articles. Record your journey so that others may learn from it.
At the end of your story you may have been launched by what the world calls Reggio or other philosophies but the road you traveled and lived will be your own. 
Nothing in life is certain except change.
So embrace it!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Describe and Interpret-The Dynamic Duo

Teachers often ask for ways to document children's experiences, a method that isn't too complicated and doesn't take days to produce.
Is there a right way to get the work done?
The truth is there is no right way or wrong way and each teacher must find her own process.
However I can offer these two handy words;  describe and interpret.

Begin by describing what is happening in the experience using both words, pictures and video.
Consider these terms;
explain, illustrate, portray, depict and tell.
Next consider what the child may have been thinking during the experience. With older children this is sometimes evident in conversation.
With younger ones you may be making some assumptions.

Once you have done this, take the information and attach it to a learning objective, or developmental milestone.
Remember that posting documentation validates the children's contribution to the classroom. It lends a voice to their shared experiences and life at school.
Even if you can't find an objective or milestone, trust me learning is always happening.
In the end try not to be overly stressed by the need to produce university grade documents that many times no one reads except you and your colleagues.
Unlike daycare where parents come into classrooms daily, schools only have a few parent nights a year.
So who is reading all that documentation?
However, the power of documentation cannot be overlooked. It is a point of reflection and provides  educators with the next steps in supporting children's learning and thinking as well as being an excellent method to track children's development.

Happy trails....