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"School is not at all like billiards. When you play billiards you push the ball with a certain force and it hits the table and bounces off; there's a definite way the ball will go, depending on force and direction. Children are not at all like this, predictable. But sometimes schools function as if they were; these are schools with no joy."
This is Loris Malaguzzi discussing in 1993 the qualities of a desirable learning place. He continues:
"... We need to be open to what takes place and able to change our plans and go with what might grow at that very moment both inside the child and inside ourselves.
Each one of us needs to be able to play with the things that are coming out of the world of children. Each one of us needs to have curiosity, and we need to be able to try something new based on the ideas that we collect from the children as they go along … As life flows with the thoughts of the children, we need to be open, we need to change our ideas; we need to be comfortable with the restless nature of life. All of this changes the role of the teacher, a role that becomes much more difficult and complex. It also makes the world of the teacher more beautiful, something to become involved in."
In reflecting on our 2015 work and events, and preparing for our 2016 professional development events* and consultancies. we've been reviewing and re-selecting background material from our colleagues in Reggio Emilia by way of an introduction. You'll find this inspiring talk amongst the selection here*.
Loris Malaguzzi's words are if anything, even more true today. We all know of the joyless schools (and the dispirited educators who feel they have to leave them). And yes, they can certainly have a look and feel of a snooker hall.
But. Our experience, and our connection with the experience and determination of others, shows the more joyful possibilities.
"You've given me hope where bulls stamped,
You've given me passion where ashes lay,
You've given me life where old bones creaked,
You've given me tranquillity in a world of voices,
I can now lead.
I see the beauty in the world again."
from a reflection by 2015 course participant Stefanie Hill.
In 2016, will we submit to the insistent click-clack of the snooker hall, or inhabit the difficult (and more beautiful) world of curiosity? And which world do we want for our children?
* Do please take a look at this new programme, and the selected background material from Reggio. And like and share it and all of that. We are sure you will find useful and inspiring material here; we did.
In preparation for our conference this weekend, Elena Giacopini of Reggio Emilia suggests reading the introduction to the book 'The Fountains'. Here we can find very neat summaries of various aspects of the approach of the preschools in Reggio. Here is Loris Malaguzzi discussing the necessary sensibilities of the teacher:
"...the teacher's tasks can only be mentioned in a broad sense, as they also involve the sensitivity and experience that the teacher contributes, and the resources which the adult must credit - first and foremost - to the children.
So, what to do?
- To be convinced that ways of knowing and learning can be identified, and that what we are interested in is discovering and understanding through which interactive processes children construct their knowledge and abilities, and how these processes can be enhanced or modified.
- To trust our self-regulatory resources to differentiate and measure out the nature and quality of our intervention.
- To be convinced that children and their cooperative group work are capable of carrying the project through, and that its success will also depend on our ability to guide and support them.
- To respect children's times of thought and action, as well as those of pause and indecision.
- To help children reflect on the possible differences of their opinions from those of others, and on their complete freedom, if they so choose, to oppose other opinions.
- To help children stay on track as much as possible, to remain faithful to their objectives, the project, and the endeavors of their companions.
- To help children present their ideas clearly, without overriding those of their peers, to help them not be afraid of making mistakes and to assure them that their ideas are legitimate.
- To help children recognize the enrichment that comes from the negotiation of ideas and actions, to see the value of sharing and changing points of view, and the growth in organizational abilities, knowledge, and Linguistic and communicative skills.
...the teachers task is to be a mediator, offering carefully measured and pertinent loans of knowledge and skills, periodically producing summaries of the children's convergent and divergent elements and the points of arrival of their work, to highlight the emerging meanings, and to solicit the participation of each and every child through increasingly cooperative and productive interaction. In one essential concept, the teacher's is task to preserve, as far as is possible, the naturalness of the children's creative and practical processes, in the conviction that children have the necessary resources for going much further than we might think."
What very useful guidelines, not just for teachers, but for parents and all who support children's growth and learning!
Wednesday 18 November, Radio 4 Four Thought: Rachel Roberts talks eloquently on the importance of a democratic basis to education; and its do-ability.
This was a very lively, upbeat, presentation, a call to action in which she says (as we know) that 'it can be done'! An ex-pupil of Sands School, then teacher at a Leipzig Free School, and director of the Phoenix Trust, she now works with Queen Mary University of London enabling students from low-income backgrounds be given the trust to lead and deliver mini-consultancy projects for local businesses. And ... it is not expensive ... and ... everyone wins!