Teaching in the Reggio Way
When I first started teaching preschool, I got a job at a school that was directly on route from my house to my kid's school. It was a half-day program, and I taught preschool kids T-TH and Pre-K kids MWF. I remember that my director would require a lesson-plan a month in advance.... How in the world did I know what we were going to be interested in and doing 30 days in advance? But it was my first preschool job and I did what I was told. So i did a little research and got a subscription to Mailbox for Teachers. It was beautifully done, giving me the ideas, crafts, songs and basically framework to run a class.
I thought I was doing everything right, until one day a little boy brought in a stick-bug that he caught. The kids and I spent the whole morning investigating the area that he was found, exploring what kinds of foods he might like, drawing pictures of him, caring for him, and talking about what we should do with him. It was so amazing that every single child was engaged, interested, and vested in the outcome of this bug. My art project for the day, per my (planed 30 days in advance) lesson plan, happened to be ice cube painting, which quickly melted on the table in the San Diego heat while the investigation of the stick bug continued throughout the morning. At pick-up time, a parent asked to see their child's ice-cube painting... He didn't have one. He had an observational drawing of a stick bug that he was so proud of! I remember how excited he was to show his mama. He was jumping up and down and couldn't stop talking about all the things we investigated. I remember how upset she was that he didn't have an ice-cube painting. I also remember that mama complaining to my director. I knew then, that planning ahead in preschool based on what Mailbox though Preschoolers would be interested in was not my path.
At this early point in my teaching career, I hadn't heard of The Reggio Emilia Approach. I knew of Montessori and Waldorf and Mailbox. The first two approaches required expensive and extensive training, and the latter required a subscription. I left that preschool after a couple of years. It was difficult because I loved working with kiddos, but I knew the Mailbox lesson plans, Lakeshore displays, and craft cookie-cutter projects weren't what spoke to my teaching heart.
My open house Nursery Rhyme theme.
My first preschool classroom.
I began subbing at various preschools and became an Art-Corp volunteer at my kid's elementary school. I continued to work with children but in a different way. I didn't have my own classroom, but I was in many different classrooms.
I then found a home. "EC Room 3." It is the classroom that I am in today, and it's where my Reggio-inspired journey began five years ago. I understood this philosophy on a molecular and spiritual level. It is the philosophy that I raised my children under, but I didn't know there was a formal name for it. In the beginning, I was really bad at setting up a provocation or an invitation, but I tried, and they were bad, but I kept observing and learning right alongside the children. They taught me! They showed me the way. And they continue to show me the way.
I attended NAREA conferences and read tons of Reggio books. I toured Reggio-inspired schools in California, Arizona, and Oregon and became even more inspired! I wanted to reach out to these educators and share ideas. Amazingly enough five years ago, that idea was kind of taboo. No one I met wanted to collaborate online or via social media. So I started my Instagram, at first to follow my own kid's posts, and then quietly post pictures of my provocations (and I've deleted the bad ones ;)). Slowly, my Instagram gained followers, slowly Reggio-inspired Facebook groups were formed, and steadily and confidently I am finding my Reggio way.
Rosewood Room (Formerly EC Room 3)
Our light and shadow exploration area.
The child is made of one hundred. The child has a hundred languages a hundred hands a hundred thoughts a hundred ways of thinking of playing, of speaking. A hundred always a hundred…
From the poem “No way. The hundred is there.” by Loris Malaguzzi.