Monday, 15 August 2016

A relationship with Reggio...

The word "relationship" popped up many times during my week here in Ontario...

a relationship with words
a relationship with the materials
the materials having relationship with each other
a relationship with colleagues
a relationship with the children
and of course a relationship with Reggio... coming to understand what it means for you and how it can be a part of your context.

I visited the "Wonder of Learning" exhibition at the beginning of the week... and of course I had a relationship with the exhibition itself, with the way Reggio was being shared, with the messages being shared etc...

My initial reaction was one of disappointment... this pedagogical philosophy with its hundred languages was not sharing with me in the languages which I communicate best in... my hands-on learning was not there... even the models which I sped and rushed towards as it reminded me of something I had seen in the MIT museum in Boston, which was very hands on, turned out to have a BIG "Do not touch" sign on it. This is the film I took in Boston last month... and I just have to share because I am still fascinated by it.... the model I saw also had wheels... but it was instead about positioning the model to reflect the light and creating a path of light from the outdoors into the indoors with a series of the machines with mirrors on...

The film will come at a later date... having problems at the moment with uploading... I will resolve this when back in Sweden!!!




I needed to spent time with the exhibition on my own at first... to interact with it o my own terms and to re-discover the messages being conveyed....

I found that it would have been good for someone to have "translated" a panel for me, so that I could better understand this language of communication... to have then gone on to interpret the rest of the panels on my own...

It was not clear to me at first that the information that said "3-5 years" was not a description of the fact the children in this project were 3-5 years old working together - which is a VERY probable way of working in my context, but referred to the fact that the children were three years old when they started the project and five years old when they finished... that these few panels (for each area) were selected points of learning from a two year project.

The panels were very much about the children's learning... and about the children... the educators sis not have a big focus... This got me thinking about equality... for me as a Reggio/Malaguzzi inspired educator it is about being co-researcher... we are partners children and educator together (and the parents an the material etc) - so the absence of the teacher in the panels felt like there was an inequality in the relationship as c-researcher. The children were given priority... and thus feeding the idea that we FOLLOW the child. Following the child, to me, means there is inequality... the child is the leader. I am not after this relationship with the children... I want to LISTEN to their ideas, I want to collaborate with them, research with them, discover with them, find theories together that we explore, that my input is valued as much as their input...
This brings me back to Hawkins "I, Thou, It" and the idea we are a triangle... with the educator, the child and the project/idea.  You can read more about this concept of Hawkins here (Hawkins Center). Its is a relationship - child, educator and project with equal status, equal potential and equal value. This idea of equality I want to return to in a later post...

As part of my learning journey I have studied several areas of learning... History, Classics, Ethnology, Sociology, Pedagogy, Epidemics, Museum Studies.... the latter gave me the chance to explore how people use exhibitions... of course I had a family/teacher bias to how I looked at this, but I found it interesting to see how panels were read by the general public...

I found panels with lots of text tended to overwhelm people, and often, even though they were interested found it hard to focus to read everything...
This was very much the case at "The Wonders of Learning" exhibition... so if you do plan to go, maybe think about going many times with the intent of exploring just one set of panels.

We develop a relationship with the panels... and of course the panels are somewhat of a monologue... which could mean you end up in some sort of isolation with your thoughts...
There is great benefit of visiting the exhibition together with others... I value my dialogues with Diane Kashin, Debi Keyte-Hartland and Cindy Green during my visit to the exhibition. It gave me the chance to take a new look, to see with their eyes... to listen to the panels with a new perspective.
This is a valuable relationship to have... friends and colleagues who support you to listen and see with a broader perspective... the gift of understanding deeper, more levels of complexity... or to give you that pedagogical somersault you never knew you needed (or was looking for).

The relationship with materials... what materials are we putting out for the children to interact with... why those materials? What is the intention?
Is there a tendency to put out a whole smörgåsbord of materials... or is time taken to think about the relationship the materials have with each other. Is there intent that the relationship is communicative... ie that the materials work together for children to explore... or maybe they are hostile towards each other and don't work well... and yet there is an intentionality with that thought too... for the children to explore ideas of non-collaboration. Sometimes less is more... especially when it is being thought out and materials are not just being placed there just because they are available. What materials are you putting close to each other? Are you presenting a material on its own... why... what materials could then further enhance the learning and wonder... in the image beloww there were agates on the light table... and further across the room a tower of perspex blocks... by moving the blocks closer to the agates there became a new wonder of seeing the agate through the block... new theories started to form about why things looked bigger and shifted within the block...

this is why we need to think about the materials we use... it is also why it is important we give ourselves time to play with the materials to make some of these discoveries ourselves



This relationship with materials and between materials is something I will no doubt be exploring more in the coming year as I research the Third Teacher in the context of our preschool...



Thursday, 11 August 2016

Images to support #Rhythm2016











Links to previous posts....

conker robots
International Fairy Tea Party (2015)
The Best position for listening
Philosophy and pre-philosophy with preschoolers - this one actually has lots of links to other posts...


Other links
History of P4C (Philosophy for Children - Matthew Lipman)
Teaching Children Philosophy - on this website there are lots of children book suggestions with suggested questions to explore various ideas...
P4C UK
University of Washington, philosophy with children
Peter Worley. /Philosophy Foundation
Peter Worley TED Talk
Socratic Method (Critical Thinking Page)
Philosophising with Children... Socratic Method

Hope this gets you going... whether or not you were a part of #Rhythm2016 I hope there is somethig you can take from these images and these links...

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

I am NOT Reggio Inspired

The last few days have been rich in dialogue with Debi and Diane… exploring our ideas and our thoughts about the pedagogy of Reggio Emilia… and also how it seems to be perceived around the world… since we sit together as Sweden, UK and Canada we bring an international perspective to the dialogue.

I have now come to the conclusion that I am NOT Reggio inspired…

I have realised that I am Malaguzzi inspired…

This has been coming on slowly… I kind of discomfort with calling myself Reggio inspired - a feeling that it was not explaining my relationship with this pedagogical philosophy. As I am one of the admins of the Facebook group Reggio Emilia Approach, I often read descriptions of Reggio that do not reflect my relationship or understanding of this approach… and I feel I do not want to be defined by this either… That the definition of Reggio by others (and yes it should look different everywhere as it should reflect your context) is not something that I want to be defined by… especially this move that Reggio IS natural materials, that Reggio IS beautiful environments with neutral colours etc etc… as for me the approach can be so many things, and is so much more complex…

I want to return to Malaguzzi… to be inspired by this man who took inspiration from many to weave his pedagogical fabric… a fabric that was always shifting and changing to meet the needs of the children, teachers, parents, setting, time…. taking inspiration not just from the pedagogical world but from the whole world… from all sorts of experts… and non-experts, across a great diversity of academic fields…

Brain research has come leaps and bounds… we know and understand so much more about the developing brain than during the time of Malaguzzi… information I am sure he would have been eager to have incorporated into this approach to learning with children.

I am inspired by many.. Malaguzzi, Hawkins etc are obvious ones… but also my husband and all his knowledge in sleep research have expanded my understanding of children's need for sleep, rest and cognitive development and health… of course all the teachers I meet… in real life and online inspire me a great deal… my own childhood inspires me… remember what I liked, what I disliked, what got me all fired up…. these memories help me connect with the children… remembering how I felt as a child… connecting with my childhood allows another perspective of today's children.
Listening to Diane's husband talk about eyes… (this is his area of expertise) and how eyes are being damaged by early reading (requiring glasses)… as eyes were not designed to read… this makes me want to research more into more about the effects learning has on the biology of the child…

Of course I could go on and on here about all the sources of inspiration - but that is not the point of this post…

MY inspiration in Malaguzzi is the fact that there is a willingness to be open to all knowledge… to actively to look for more knowledge to better understand the knowledge you already possess or to send you into a pedagogical somersault… to force you to rediscover what learning is … what teaching is.
His passion for children… the respect… the desire to create something new, not by inventing the wheel but by recycling what already exists. His belief that children are competent and that we are co-researchers. His image of the child.

Having just read Roald Dahl's BFG recently to the children I have vivid memories of the BFG travelling to dreamland and collecting dreams… which he mixed up to create new dreams for (mainly) children. So now I have this image of a teacher collecting ideas - from research, from society, from colleagues, from parents from the children, from the world around us - and mixing them up to create new ideas for the children… with the children.

OK… I need to sleep… to dream…
and the rest of the week… this #Rhythm2016 … a possible "idealand" to collect ideas…?




Sunday, 7 August 2016

Professional Development of the Third Teacher. 2

So  week has gone by…

Not so much to report really… as there have not been many children during the week to put things to the test… but the response of those that have been there has been very positive… the play has been rich and the materials have all been used in a wide variety of ways… we have noticed that the stories/books that have been read really influence how the children use the loose parts…


The red room… above… has had the addition of hama beads to the sensory table… and they have been popular… the children have created patterns, spent time feeling them and listening to them… also sorting them…

The use of lots of natural materials does mean that there is more "dirt" on the floor and table tops, but it is nothing too much to wipe/sweep clean at the end of the day…

I have found the children playing shops, playing kitchen with the loose parts… what would have traditionally been called the construction area… but by only having loose parts everywhere we have opened up the potential for all kinds of play to happen everywhere in the preschool… it is no longer one area for one kind of play and another area for other kinds of play…

This feels much more inclusive.

In the yellow room there has been the addition of boards on the wall for children to put their own art work… and also space for us to pin up inspiration.
The art shelf… this being mostly for drawing and writing… represents a little of a problem… it gets disorganised fast… so we might have to rethink this… do we want it beautiful all the time? What is beautiful… Is organised to me the same kind of organised for another? How can we make this art/writing shelf communicate with the children to make it accessible for all and easy for them to find the material/tools they need… or to inspire them to try something new…

There is the art studio with much more materials… so this is not a space for LOTS of things…
It will be something to think of during the month…

If this is the first post you are reading in the series, and you don't understand what I mean by red room and yellow room then I recommend that you read the first post in this series


Now I am in Toronto, Canada… and I won't get the chance to document the third teacher for the next two weeks… so I will be back with more when I get back to Sweden…

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Professional Development of the Third Teacher. 1.

This is the very first post I will share of the journey our third teacher will make this year.

For a while now we have been thinking about the idea of taking everything away and just letting the children play with their imaginations… well now we have decided to do that… but we are not taking EVERYTHING away, but we are leaving a great deal more space for the children's imaginations.

What will be left are blocks, stones, sticks, fabrics, books and materials in the art studio…

The idea is that we will add on to what we offer slowly… and each time we add something to the shelves it is considered…

I read a lot of posts about the third teacher… and the beauty of how we present the third teacher is often discussed…

I believe in the 100 languages of children… which means we as teachers have a hundred languages, and  a hundred ways to listen… BUT this must also mean the environment has a hundred languages too… and beauty is ONLY ONE of them.

Over the years I also think beauty is not something we can just use as a description for how a setting should look… as we all have our different perception of what is beautiful… from place to place, culture to culture, from childhood to adulthood… I know my sense of what is beautiful is quite different now than what it was as a child… and yet we tend to set up preschools from an adult sense of beautiful…

What I wish for my Third Teacher this year is develop the other languages (not abandon beauty… I don't want to lose languages, only gain them)… I want the Third Teacher to say welcome, to say explore, to say play, to say feel included etc…
The problem is that is an environment can say these things they can also say not welcome, don't explore, don't play, feel excluded… and I need to find out what my Third teacher needs for professional development to use the right languages… for a diverse, inclusive environment where there are equal opportunities for EVERYONE.

So we will be examining materials we will bring into the environment to see if they are inclusive… that boys and girls feel included, that all races, cultures, languages, religions etc etc feel included and valued.

So after a week of stripping our preschool down to the minimum… this is how it looks…

the art studio. Images have been taken from an adult height as well as a child height, to be able to evaluate the difference… we need to be able to see the rooms through the eyes of the child.

The BLUE ROOM… our rooms are given colour names so that we can change the purpose of the room without confusion. Children will still know where to go regardless of whether the construction area has changed with the library…
At the moment the blue room is a room where we have big motor activities… the is room for running, dancing, climbing, jumping, and louder voices than in other rooms… bigger actions often come with bigger voices…

this is one of the entrances… 30 children hang their clothes here… we have a whole system during the day so that we do not have all thirty coming in and out at the same time. Chldren are dropped off between 6:30 and 9:00 in the morning and picked up between 14:00 and 18:00 in the afternoon so there is seldom crowding problems then. The silver/white cupboard to the left is the drying cupboard… so we can go out in all weathers…

this is the other entrance for 10-11 children
the premises are an old post office… so they are not designed as a preschool… this presents both challenges and opportunities

The green room… for water play… also were the very small toilet is, and also where the nappy changing area is. This is one of the least developed areas.

the orange room… at the moment this is where the very youngest members of the preschool start their day and also where they nap.
The whole preschool is available to ALL the children. The children are aged between 1 and 6 - this also presents challenges and opportunities… more about these in later posts…

The rainbow room… this is where we have our philosophy sessions with the children… it is also where we have our little "library" - we also have a public library right next door to us. This room is our quite room… it is a room where we expect the children to play quietly, to read… and this is so that all children know there is somewhere to go when they need a quiet moment during the day.


The Red Room… this is also where we have a kitchen area and the dishwashers… it is the most central part of the preschool.  Again you can see the difference between photos taken at adult height and photos taken at child height. We have just moved the construction materials from the yellow room into here… they were not being used so much in the yellow room, so we want to observe if there will be a difference by moving them.

The yellow room.
Roll-play is now moved to the left, with a hug mirror there… the writing/drawing table has been moved from the red room to the yellow room.
Before this room was one ENORMOUS room… without the white divider to create the art studio… the room said run… which since we already has a room for running felt like we were not providing enough diversity… the preschool should say more than run… even though I know children LOVE running!


So there it is… the preschool, not quite ready for the children but almost…
Next week there will be a post… and then there will be two weeks break as i will be in Canada meeting up with other ECE teachers - sharing knowledge and inspiring each other… so no doubt I will return from there with more ideas, more languages for my Third Teacher to learn…

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Starting anew… (summer is almost over…)

The summer break here in Sweden is coming to an end… and the educational year will soon be starting again.

My daughters will leave "foundation school" which is from the age of 7 in year 1 until the leave at the end of year nine. They will be now going onto their next school (non-compulsary) for further studies. One of them will be moving across the country to a small sea town to do a "spetsutbildning" which google translates as top education in marine biology.. there are only two schools in Sweden that offer this kind of education, and the one that suited her best was not the one here in Stockholm, but the one 7 hours away.
So my 15 year old will be leaving home.
I was not quite ready for that… and while I am immensely proud of the fact that she will be studying in the place she really wants to, it feels so strange to admit to myself that she no longer needs me in the same way as she did when she was small.
Lucky for me that her twin sister is staying here in Stockholm… and attending a school not that far away from where we live.
My son still has 4 more years of compulsory school. AND I am so hoping that this is the year when we turn things around… and at the same time I am getting myself prepared to move him if it doesn't work. Sometimes when you have a history at a place then it can be good to free yourself from that history to start anew…

Starting anew is something we can do at the preschool too… at the moment there are only two children needing care… and although most of the staff are off enjoying their summer… there are a few at work… fixing and arranging and preparing for the term to come.

This coming year we will be have a special focus on the pedagogical environment as well as creating a preschool that is inclusive for all… i.e. exploring our norms and values.

A few of the staff came over to my place to watch the film "The Beginning of Life" and one of the points that was lifted was the fact that children should be given more time and space for their OWN imagination.
So in the next few days we will be taking away all the toys/materials from the shelves and leaving out only books, paper and pens (and the art studio… but this will also be thinned down) as well as some blocks, sticks and stones and cardboard boxes and pieces of material.

What will the children make of it?
Next week there will be 12 children at the preschool… they will be the first (of the 40 we usually have once the term gets in full swing) to get a taste of the preschool with space for imagination.

Later this month I will be taking the whole team to Ekudden Preschool in Uppsala to check out their pedagogical environment… to ask questions, to get them thinking about when we start adding things, what will we add and why.

Last year we started the school year with the hope to develop the environment… and while we have looked at it… we did not get far… and this is the first time I will be working as director of Filosofiska from the start of the year… and not taking over mid term… so hopefully there will be a different dynamic… my colleagues become more inspired which adds fuel to how we develop the environment together… this year we will be really giving it a challenge.

(Developing the Third Teacher - the post I wrote last year as we were about to embark a new school year).

So on Friday I will post images of our new empty preschool… and I have full intentions to write a weekly report here on its development… the good, the bad, the ugly, the frustrating and the celebrations of the Third Teacher developing with us and the children!!

one of the things I have noticed about children's play outside that when we have cited spaces that appear "empty" the children have filled it with their play. The play has always then been very socially rich. So I am looking forward to seeing if this is the case when we use this principle indoors

inspiration from Ekudden… where we will visit in a few weeks. I am curious to see what inspiration the teachers will take from the visit.

Boulder Journey School. It was alike a place of illusion. It gave the impression of having space… and yet it was filled with inspiration - the walls, floors and ceilings

this is our art studio a few years ago… there have been a few changes here over the last 24 months…

my visit to Iceland gave me a whole load of food for thought about having VERY few things out for the children… 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Why I will be marching in the Pride Parade this year

I appreciate that not everyone will share my views… that there will be those who do not approve of the lifestyles of others… my request is that you read this with the understanding it is about equality for all… for all humans to be equally valued… that being different is not bad… it is simply not the same as you… that we have more similarities with each other than differences in the end…




Next Saturday, July 30th, I will be taking part in the Pride Parade here in Stockholm.
I will be taking part as a mother, a teacher, a fellow human being.

I have always been a person who has felt strongly about valuing others… those who think like me, but also those who are very different from myself. And this has covered race, religion, culture, gender, sexuality… you name it, I try to be as open to the idea as possible… open to the idea of understanding, of wanting to listen… and most importantly having respect.

This is something that I felt was important for my own three children to have… and so there has always been an openness at hoe to talk about all kinds of people as the norm… not as if they were different, but just everyday people.

My daughters (twins) are now 15, my son is now 12. I find it fascinating talking with them and learning about their experiences… and how I have impacted on their lives… the good and the bad…

One of the things they conveyed recently was that one of the biggest shocks they got in their lives was when they were watching a film about gay rights in school and so many of their friends reacted shocked or disgusted… for my daughters being gay was normal, just as not being gay is normal… so they found it odd that so many found it not normal…

Of course if most of society thinks that something is not normal… then it is going to be quite hard to react normally with people different from themselves… whether it be gay or something else.

As a child I can remember all the times that I felt different and the sense of not belonging… I am 1.78m (just over 5'10¨) so I am tall (not excessively tall)… in fact I am 3 inches/7.5cm taller than the average male (in UK)… I was taller than all my male teachers in school… there were no teachers taller than me… although my German teacher was the same height…
Its not a big outsider thing, on the great scale of things… but it did make finding clothes that fitted hard… if you are short you can take them up… not quite as easy to add on…
It meant I bought a lot of men's clothes so that I could get the length.

I have also moved to Sweden… I have felt what it feels like to be an outsider… not to understand a language (although I do now!!) to be continuously judged as an English person… and that happened too when I lived for half a year in Sweden… when people in Adelaide discovered I was from the UK I was so surprised at just how many people accused me of brining over the sparrows and rats and other animals damaging Australia's beautiful indigenous wildlife… I know for a fact that it was NOT me that brought them over… more likely the ancestors of these people accusing me! But you kind of apologised and scuttled away.

Oh yeah, people are taller here in Sweden, so I don't feel quite as different… but I do work in a branch with lots of little people… means I get lots of bruises on my knees trying to manage tucking my legs under the child sized tables! hehe

Anyway - so at some point/s in our lives we have all felt different. The question is how do we use that feeling to ensure we do not allow for others to be made to feel different, not to be included…

During this last week I have been working on a plan for equality in our preschool setting, and also working on a handbook to help us question the way we look at things, the way we work, how we observe the children and how we can improve the preschool to be a place of equal opportunities.

The equal opportunity plan discusses children's rights, talks about what is discrimination, harassment bullying etc… how we work actively against it, what happens if it does occur… how it should be reported, documented etc and how the preschool's vision works for an inclusive environment…
it also explains various areas where people are discriminated etc

The handbook thing is more a reflective tool, to get the pedagogues critically thinking about their own prejudices and stereotypes… also to start dialogues about who this applies to, how our language, spoken and unspoken affect the children, how the environment affects the children… and how we can be more norm-aware… what are the majority groups what are the minority groups and how can we make the minority groups more part of the norm, everyday part of our lives to enable the children to be respectful and open to differences… not just to see the differences but enabled to see the similarities…
There is also a need to explore the multiple.identities of children… they are just not one identity - e.g. preschool child, but also sex, gender, religion, cultural group, their family etc etc etc… they are an individual and a member of the preschool group… but also their family… and we need to look at the complexity of each individual and give them value…
also exploring how we can actively support the children, by dealing with our own feeling s first… so a kind of philosophical approach… its not quite finished yet…

and of course its all in Swedish… and connected to Swedish school laws, Children's Rights, the Swedish preschool curriculum etc…


So back to the Pride Parade
I am marching for equal opportunities … for awareness that all children, alls families alls people have the right to be equally valued, and that they are included… to help us see the similarities and not just the differences… and at the same time celebrate diversity…


its complex

But basically I am a person that wants peace… and peace can only come through acceptance, through listening and understanding…