I will confess that I was a little disappointed with the first couple days of the study tour I took to see the pre-schools and infant-toddler centers in Reggio Emilia. The presentations had been interesting, but they weren’t answering my questions. Finally we got to go in to the schools.
The first school I went to, the Diana school, was lovely. It was an older school, with a beautiful tree in their little courtyard. The kids were playing throughout the spaces and the materials were set up in an inviting way. I read the documentation on the walls and marvelled at the quality of work the children were engaging in.
At the end of their school day, they provided us juice and biscuits and we all sat together and did a question and answer session. One of the Diana teachers, a young teacher, who looked nervous to be answering the questions of a much more experienced crowd of foreign teachers, was talking about how they met as a group to discuss the children’s learning and then POP. I understood all that they’d been saying to me about a culture of listening.
Reggio really challenged my understanding of the importance of the environment – how to create spaces and materials that invite and engage learning – and my role as a teacher. I am now a researcher, a facilitator, and a playmate. I need to collect data through listening, really listening to the theories of my learners. I need to listen with my eyes too – what mental models are they developing that they don’t yet have the words to explain?
Now when I work with learners (students and teachers), I try very hard to listen with my ears AND my eyes and constantly ask myself, “What do I think they’re understanding? How can I help them show their knowing? What are their burning questions?”