Monday 23 November 2015

Developing the Third Teacher...

We all need professional development to grow, to learn and to be able to see things from new perspectives. The setting is also in need of this development... it needs to grow with the children, to adapt to the needs of the group, the individuals, the interests, the teachers, the context, the world we live in... etc.

How do we ensure that the changes we make in our settings... in the physical environment are having the effect that we hope they will have.
How is it being documented... and how is this documentation being referred to in order to support the third teacher's development. That is is not change for changes sake... but development.

How do we inspire the third teacher?

I know that I have benefited from visiting other settings... looking around, talking with how the pedagogues use the environment, their thinking behind the layout, the structure, the design and the choices of materials available. I have appreciated taking photographs... not so that I can copy, but so that I can remember the processes, the feeling I had while I visited, so that I can continue my reflections.

I have visited places where no photos have been allowed (and I know this is the case in the preschools in Reggio Emilia) - and while I understand that they want to provoke thinking, and that those visiting make their own reflections and so not just copy and paste - I also feel that the chance to make deeper reflections go missing when there are no images to take back to colleagues to talk about, reflect with... for them to ask questions about the reasoning and to start making decisions about how to develop their own settings, their own third teacher.

Of course there will always be those who will copy-paste in the exact same way as there will be those who use templates without questioning them...

For me it is not about the copying, or the use of templates that is a problem... but the lack of reflection. And for me, in the start of a Reggio inspired journey you need all the support you can get... to structure the reflections, to dare to question what you know... to make those somersaults that take you from being a teacher where you follow the instructions to being a co-researcher with the children - where the children learn to learn and you learn more about the children and how they learn so that you can create the curriculum that will enable them to learn more and deeper.

The environment is a part of this process... your observations of how the space is used... your reflections about how to make the space interesting and available to ALL. Understanding how small changes can have big effects... and learning when to make them...

All of this takes time... it is a process. Especially if you want to understand.

I am still very much in this process of learning... of getting to know my third teacher... my colleague. Even after three years at the same setting, with twenty years of experience, I feel far from fully understanding this setting... but I am getting a grasp of it.

 To find out more about this visit to Ekudden... check this post
 To find out more about Boulder Journey School check out... this post from 2014 and this post on outdoor surfaces and this post about ceilings and this post about lighting and this post about water play
 The outdoor environment is an important third teacher too... the third teacher is NOT just indoors...
you can find out more... here, here and here - there are 19 posts on outdoor environments.
 Acorm School of Early Childhood - Boulder - is the post I first shared this image.
and also here in small spaces for quiet play
 Thsi is the atelier where I work... although it has evolved a little since this photo was taken... here is a post about the process of this space
 My visit to Canada was also very inspiring... I have many photos to refer to even though I did not make as many posts as i would have hoped... this post focuses on light
 My visit to Iceland was very inspiring... post about the dining area and also a post about the empty space... and use of it
Visiting early years setting in the refugee camp in Jenin, Palestine was also very inspiring. A completely different context from my own... and the need to walk in without judgement ... but to walk in with the desire to understand and learn.

 We can also temporarily chamge the environment to provoke thought and play... check out the light installation play... here, here and here

It is so easy to judge others based on your own context... but I feel this is a dangerous and counter-productive attutude to have. We need to always walk into a setting with the desire to learn... to learn how the space is being used by the children, how the space is being used by the adults, how the context of the setting impacts the choices, how the availability of materials impacts how the children can learn.
There is not always a great mass of materials at the disposal for children to explore and experiment with, sometimes you need to get creative... and in many places recycling junk is not an option because the whole city is littered with the stuff in such a way that it is something negative (and the junk everywhere was overwhelming - a reminder of oppression almost).
So we need to go into a setting to understand so that we can join them on their journey and enable them... not look down on them from our vantage point of a more peaceful context, or cultural differences, or the impact of poverty, or politics... or whatever it might be in any given place...
We need to be there and understand that these marvelous educators are doing their very best for the children in their circumstances.

For more posts you can check out the links conected to "Preschool visits" and also "The third Teacher"

A good one to start with is How is your Third Teacher Teaching

Sunday 8 November 2015

Structure for freedom

This post can now be found on my new website...

and it is important to remember that children are not just learning all of this for future use, but to be active social being right now too.