In March 2000 I wrote an independent inquiry for an undergraduate class entitled Reggio in North American Schools: To What Degree is Transfer Applicable which I recently went back and took a look at. In many ways, this paper represents some of my earliest reflections.
I remember being introduced to all things Reggio by my outstanding field advisor, Gail Danysk, who remains a great educator. It was Gail, and the work of Pat Tarr at the University of Calgary that sparked my interest and quickly got me thinking about how quickly I could get teaching and start to "do Reggio". A couple other key pieces fell into place right away for me. First, my initial teaching role was in kindergarten, and second, I had a very supportive, arts-centred principal in Carmen Roman.
Early on, I knew that I could not simply "do Reggio", but I did realize that I could take the best elements and bring them to my practice. As I look back over 16 years ago, I can see how my beliefs in the Reggio model have influenced my career in education.
I have maintained that the child is always the lead character in their own learning, the main focus, and the their own best advocate. Regardless of age, the child always knows which way they learn best, and it's our job as educators to watch, encourage, and set up opportunities for them to let this play out in our classrooms. Listening to student voice in the classroom is a critical part of this process, and the child needs to be able to express themselves openly, honestly, and directly with the teacher and classmates.
Parents are also critical partners in this process. It's not a case of sending your child to school and hoping for the best. It's about being a critical part of the teacher - child - parent triad. This is a supportive, trusting relationship, where all parties work on behalf of what's best for the child.
The teachers who have the most advanced assessment practices are always the best researchers. This isn't about going out and doing research, but rather conducting research in the classroom. These teachers are able to listen to children as they learn to find out what they really know, and where they want or need to go next. They implicitly know each child as a learner because they have spent the time with them, and also because they are flexible to let things play out despite what might be on their agenda.
Some other elements that remain critical parts of my teacher and leadership practice that have a Reggio influence include:
1) the importance of play
2) creating opportunities for wonder
3) celebrating and incorporating the beauty of nature
4) valuing the role of collaboration: student - student, student - teacher, teacher - teacher
5) utilizing the documentation process to make learning visible
6) taking pride in how the school looks and message it relays to all who enter
So all these years later would I say I was able "do Reggio"? I guess I would say that I have been able to confirm my initial beliefs, and realized that if you start off your own journey looking to simply copy or replicate Reggio that you have missed the point altogether. I would say it's about being Reggio-inspired and ensuring that it lives each day in not only your mindset, but your actions.
I was thankful that someone thought enough of that initial paper to have it published, and pleased that it's still available on the internet on the University of Calgary site. Please feel free to share some stories of how your practice remains Reggio-inspired.