I mentioned a few posts back about finishing up Working in the Reggio Way and I’m just starting Authentic Childhood. Now that I’ve had a few weeks to think and journal a bit about the first title I think I’m ready to share some observations.
I really enjoyed reading some of the examples provided about how a project comes to be and the types of things that become projects. One specific note was about children moving into a new space (moving up a level at the beginning of a new school year) and talking about redoing the space to make it their own. The teacher shared art work and projects that previous students had made to create the feeling of ownership in the space and from there the ideas came for how to re-shape the space. The teacher offered some guidance and suggestions, but the process was owned by the students. That is exactly what I’m looking for in our home- ownership of the learning process, but guidance in the right places.
I liked the emphasis on process- the student developed a plan of action, and the teacher was there to assist in the process without actually helping if that makes sense. It was about providing materials and resources along with suggestions of different routes to take, but the actual process was left to the student’s choosing. This is the part that brought me to consider Reggio Emilia in the first place- I appreciate the role of the teacher as more of a “facilitator” than a “lesson presenter”. Along with this, the examples in the book often illustrated how the teacher used questions to guide the student to a discovery while allowing the student to own the discovery process. The questions were often open-ended (my favorite kind of questions) and it put the student in the position to draw his or her own conclusions.
One of the most interesting points for me was that there was always time given between the first mention of an idea and the next mention- it could be hours, days, even weeks, but there was always time given. A lot of other things I’ve read have a “strike while the iron is hot” mentality about topics that your child wants to pursue, but this is quite the opposite. Time is given so that both the student and teacher can think on the idea and develop a few thoughts on the subject before moving forward. This makes a lot of sense to me after thinking back over it- quite frequently Ender brings up a topic that we briefly discussed several days or even weeks earlier and he makes connections with something current. That idea of continued conversation even over that span of time seems to occur naturally for him. I like having the time between to think a bit about how much to tell him at one time in order not to overload him.
An example: Back in June during a particularly bad storm we lost power for about 10 minutes. Of course Ender wanted to know why and we had a brief conversation about electricity and how the wires come into our home to deliver electricity. Since then we have had a dozen more conversations about electricity- which things in our house require electricity to run, how electricity is made (particularly after seeing the wind turbines while driving through Iowa last week!), why electricity can be dangerous . . . the list goes on. The conversation has grown more complex as he asks different questions, and I’m learning a lot to keep up with him.
The last and most important information for me was reading about how the project was developed between the child and the teacher. From other reading I felt like the teacher’s job was really to stand back out of the picture, but this book gave me a better feel of exactly how hands-on the teacher should be. I’ve felt like I’ve been almost in the way of the learning process because of the heavy emphasis on education being solely child-lead in other readings, but reading this book made me feel much more confident about my role in this process.