Friday, 18 July 2014

Reflections on a workshop...

The workshop I held here in Boulder was quite different from the one I held in Toronto - the time being very different… just 2 hours instead of 5 - and it being held in the evening instead of a morning and early afternoon.



For me this last workshop was less satisfying… I am going to be selfish here, I am going to say it as I see it, and as I would have wished it to be… because I am greedy, I want to learn more - and I need questions, lots and lots of questions for that to happen… and there were not many questions happening… could this have been due to the fact everyone was just so tired after working for a day…? or due to the fact the room was large and had a high ceiling which makes the acoustics a little more intimidating…? it could have been the fact that I was standing at the front and everyone else was seated…? but that was the case in Canada too, and that did not stop the interactiveness…

The lack of willingness to be interactive made it hard for me to work out what it was this audience wanted to hear, it created a workshop that was more monologue than I wished for, which meant it was much more surface information than digging deep and exploring what interested those participating.

I had cut down the images by a third… technically I had far too many images - but I went from one to the next gaging the interest, trying to activate my audience and finding little response. There was action, there were questions, but there were also those sitting there with their eyes closed… was this to enable them to think more clearly, or a sign that it had been a really long day?

Chatting with my hosts at Boulder Journey School afterwards it was mentioned that "Americans are not as comfortable questioning other people's ideas" as they found Europeans… I do not have enough experience to know if this is true or not… but for me questioning ideas is so essential to the Reggio process… it is also so essential to a philosophical approach…. and so essential to life… we cannot simply go around and just accept the way things are, we have to ask questions to understand… or to work collaboratively to make things better….

Philosophy is a learning community - supporting the children to learn TOGETHER… asking questions not only benefits the person asking the questions, but also the one answering and everyone else listening… a new perspective…

One of the questions I got was about the Elmer project to support listening skills rather than an art project…(you can read it here) as being controversial (although I did invite that) - not in the way it was in Canada where it looked too much like a template for comfort… but from the perspective of placing the children in a situation where they could be right or wrong. This has got me thinking about the project once again - was I doing that? And if i was, is that always a bad thing?
I look back and I see that the words were always supportive, constructive and reminders to help the children be more aware of their thinking processes… in the beginning I needed to do a lot of the guiding, but as the project evolved the children were able to help each other…

I also got thinking about puzzles, board games, team games etc where there is an obvious right and wrong element to the play… do we allow the children to place all the jigsaw puzzles in the wrong places? Do we allow children to play board games however they want… each child playing to their own set of rules at the same time - do we allow children to play team games where they all followed their own whim? No? Why, then, is a obvious right and wrong play a bad thing? Maybe it isn't all the time? Maybe there are situations where children learn to accept that working together is more fun - even if it means there is a winner or a loser sometimes - whether by luck, by skill, speed etc - maybe by following the rules in games is OK even if it does open up the opportunity of getting it wrong?

In the Elmer project no-one got it wrong, because we all worked as a team… we helped each other, reminded each other the whole time… there was no opportunity to get it wrong - only support to learn together.

It is so important to get the chance to reflect… and questions enable that - and questions from others, with different perspectives are the best…

I hope that everyone who came to the workshop found that bit of inspiration they were looking for… and did not feel my frustration of just skimming on the surface… I was waiting to dive deep into an area or two that inspired… but my skills at working out what those were might not have been as they should, and I might have missed them… something to work on…

Images from the workshop can be seen here  as promised (this is the one from Canada - so there will be a few extra images too). Hope the images offer a chance to reflect and to think deeper and connect my experiences with your own experiences and create a spark of inspiration...

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