In this essay (adapted from a seminar Malaguzzi gave in 1993), Malaguzzi brings teachers’ attention to the central point from which all education shines: how we see children. We each have a filter, he asserts, and we must know our filter first before we can challenge it and develop a more accurate image of children as competent, powerful and full of ideas. Some important quotes from the essay:
“Each one of you has inside yourself an image of the child that directs you as you begin to relate to a child. This theory within you pushes you to behave in certain ways; it orients you as you talk to the child, listen to the child, observe the child. It is very difficult for you to act contrary to this internal image.”
“Life has to be somewhat agitated and upset, a bit restless, somewhat unknown. 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.”
“When we think about a child, when we pull out a child to look at, that child is already tightly connected and linked to a certain reality of the world — she has relationships and experiences. We cannot separate this child from a particular reality.”
This text is definitely leans more toward the book size (72 pages), but it is actually a report created by Rinaldi after spending a year (2012-2013) in South Autralia as the Adelaide Thinker in Residence. In his foreward, Jay Weatherill summarizes the report succinctly: Carla Rinaldi’s “report has left South Australia with profoundly challenging questions: What is our image of a child? What is the role of the school in society? How do we view education and care, and why do we separate these into distinct categories?” The purpose of Rinaldi’s report is to support Australia’s reconstruction of their education and care approach; however, the findings and provocations in the report can support any school’s self-inquiry.
“The image of the child is above all a cultural, and therefore social and political convention that makes it possible to recognise ,or not, certain qualities and potentials in children, and to construe expectations and contexts that give value to such qualities and potentials or, on the contrary, to negate them. What we believe about children thus becomes a determining factor in defining their social and ethical identity, their rights and the educational and life context offered to them.”
“The role of school can be defined as a fundamental place for the formation of the citizen according to the constitutional dictates…School is not a place only to transmit culture but to create it, to encourage critical thinking, creativity and relationship. No longer can schools simply be reproducers of knowledge. They are places where children and adults construct knowledge and their understanding of the world together.”
Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play is a pioneer in research about play. His research has included topics from the Texas Tower murderer to how adults have engaged in play throughout history. Not officially an “article”, Brown’s Ted Talk speaks loudly about the human need for play throughout life.
“The Texas Tower murderer opened my eyes, in retrospect, when we studied his tragic mass murder, to the importance of play, in that that individual, by deep study, was found to have severe play deprivation.Charles Whitman was his name. And our committee, which consisted of a lot of hard scientists, did feel at the end of that study that the absence of play and a progressive suppression of developmentally normal play led him to be more vulnerable to the tragedy that he perpetrated. And that finding has stood the test of time — unfortunately even into more recent times, at Virginia Tech.”
“[Play] doesn’t have a particular purpose, and that’s what’s great about play. If its purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play.”
“Now one of the things about play is that it is born by curiosity and exploration.”
I love, love, love Vivian Paley (if you haven’t read You Can’t Say You Can’t Play, I highly recommend it). In this excerpt from a larger article about teacher researchers, Paley shares her own experience beginning to view herself as a researcher in the classroom. For those wondering what a child-led classroom looks like, Paley suggests some self-inquiries. After all, if you want to understand something, find out for yourself!
“Throughout my almost 40 years of teaching I never varied from that piece of learning—just start the day playing and we’ll see what comes of it.”
“If the children came in and played, there was a sense of continuity that went through the morning session or the afternoon session. If they came in and had some kind of teacher-
created activity at their place, though it was pleasant stuff that I put out there and they enjoyed it, there was no continuity. They didn’t say anything about it later. They didn’t bring it into their play or their talk.”
“I was starting to feel more as if a classroom might be a place in which I could start to figure things out about children and teaching…I needed to find a place where I could figure things out. Figure out why I was there, why the children were there, what we were supposed to be doing. I had lucked into the work that became my passion for the rest of my career, and still is.”
This wonderful article shares the ring-around-a-rosy story that grew in the Diana School in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The article speaks about the nature of learning groups and how documentation supports those groups and deeper inquiries into topics. Most importantly, the authors remind us that one essential quality of Reggio Emilia, Italy classrooms is their belief that teacher and student are co-learners and co-constructors of knowledge.
“By learning from and with one another, Giullia, Giovanni and Leonardo reach a more complex understanding than any one child would alone.”
“…Reggio children understand how they can learn with and from others. One possible reason is that the teachers’ documentation makes the children more aware of their individual and group learning.”
“Documenting group learning shifts children away from the idea that it is only the teacher who teaches.”
Hungry for more resources? Visit TeachReggio’s Resources for articles, videos, speeches and books from ateliers and tinkering to brain research and pedagogical documentation!
©Shelley Welch 2016