November 01, 2008

Affirmation

This week I returned from some training with the staff of the about to be opened Olive Tree preschool in South Austin (and oh, what a gorgeous school it is!). Even though I'm not employed there, but rather, run a small Reggian-inspired program out of my home on the other side of town, I was grateful that the owner extended the invitation for me to attend, and am so very pleased with the alliance we've built.

The week was refreshing, and even a bit emotional for me (for many of us actually) as it solidified and confirmed my reasons for doing what I do with my Casa T program. When I first learned about Reggio, I was drawn to it because of its untraditional philosophy.

As a former public school teacher, and a parent of two teens (one with 'special rights'), I've seen first-hand how the educational system in our country has become increasingly standardized and structured. This is a sharp contrast to that of the Reggio approach because this approach is unstructured and focuses more on each child's individual needs. The curriculum is designed around the child, instead of the child needing to be ready for the curriculum.

In an article written by Tess Bennett, an early childhood special education professional, she describes her observations during her visit to the preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and discussed how the Reggio schools work with children with 'special rights' in a very responsive way.

"For example, one child with autism was allowed to roam around the school for several months while the teachers observed her to find out what was interesting and motivating for her. The staff noticed the child was interested in light. They began to offer her opportunities to experiment with light, and eventually she started to interact with another child at the light table. Continuing the interest in light, the child with special rights interacted with another child while experimenting with a prism. Reggio Emilia staff believe in starting with all children "where they are." This strategy requires knowing the child well and having good communication with the child's family about the child's interests. The Reggio Emilia staff believe that finding out what motivates a child is worth more than hundreds of meaningless exercises."

When I read this, I began to cry. If only this had been a resource for my own child when he was young, instead of the many standardized tests that decide a child's educational abilities, that are so prevalent in our school system. Yes, he has survived--I like to say he's persevered--but it has been a very bumpy road, and one I would have rather he not have traveled on.


I do want to add that observation is not only used extensively for children with special rights, but for ALL children, in order to gain insight into the child's thinking process and understanding the self.

We concluded our training with making of dreamboards to represent what we want to see in our school (and for me, in my inhome program). We had a very short time, but I managed to find words and images that spoke to me.

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I love how her board below, flows off the paper. This gal thinks outside the box.

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Mine

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7 comments:

Mia's Mama said...

What a wonderful experience. I'm so glad you were able to go and reaffirm your beliefs towards education. I'm also so very thrilled that Mia and our family will benefit from all that you know and are.
Love you!

p.s. LOVE LOVE LOVE your dreamboard :)

Christina said...

I have always been so impressed by the little peaks I've seen of Casa T, and I am delighted to learn more about it. It truly sounds amazing, Andrea, and I wish Dallas wasn't so far!

C-man and Mama said...

I am always envious of those that so clearly know their calling and then develop such a passion for it!
Domi may not have had the opportunities to attend a school but he has been a lucky boy to have you on his side throughout this journey.

Andrea said...

Awwww, thank you!! I love my Casa T family.

Like I said, it was a very inspiring, and also emotional (in a positive way) week for me. I think too, that because of what I've experienced personally is why I'm so passionate about this. Reggio just "feels right" to me. And I'm going with that gut feeling.

And Andrea, as soon as I got to the part you wrote about Domi, it struck a chord within me and this mama got weepy all over again!

*sniff*

krista said...

oh andrea! your blog is beautiful--just as you( and your spirit) are beautiful! thank you so much for contributing to our training--i look forward to future collaborations!
love and peace,
krista
yoganaiya.com

Golightly said...

Oh, I love Reggio, that's what I would prefer for Harrison but fate has me somewhere else. (That and there are no Reggio-based schools near by) Harrison is happy where he is at, so I can't complain. I always encourage his teacher when she actually does Reggio-based things.

I was an office manager for a Nursery School for years that used Reggio and play-based curriculum.

krista said...

andrea! thanks so much for adding my link!!! what a pal ;-)
XO,
krista