Freedom to share
Recently I changed the name of the Facebook group I have been admin for over a decade... from Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach to The Original Learning Approach - Original Learning being an approach to reflecting on play and learning/teaching that I ave been developing since 2018, presented for the first time in April 2019 at The Athens "Play on Early Education" conference where I was the opening keynote speaker. Since then I have been writing more and more about it and also refining it.
The aim of the Original Learning Approach is to act as a toolbox for educators around the world to reflect on their own work in a holistic way. Not to change the way you work to another specific way of being an educator, but a way to enhance the way you work. To reflect on how play, wonder, curiosity, joy, imagination, knowledge, interaction, risk, time and reflection (key words) are woven into your setting, how they impact the children and the way they learn. It is supposed to both inspire and validate.
Working internationally with educators, especially those who are striving to be inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach I have often found them struggling with the realities of their own context, the curriculums and the policies... and that there was a correct way to be Reggio Emilia inspired has also been felt by many, who have felt judged, reprimanded and publicly humiliated by others who (I hope) intend well, but have delivered their criticisms in ways that have discouraged people from sharing.
On the whole I am fairly brave when it comes to sharing, but I, too, have felt restricted by what I share to the group sensing it was not "Reggio" enough and would therefore cause problems... more for me, as I am admin for a group that strives to share information about the approach and therefore more responsibility to get it right was placed on me.
Changing the name to the Original Learning Approach has suddenly felt liberating... I did not know that this is what I would experience... but without a doubt, once the fear of changing the name had subsided, I found myself feeling a sense of freedom to share ALL my thinking about play, learning, teaching and children and not just some of it. Don't get me wrong, I have a deep respect for the Reggio Emilia Approach, and it has been inspiring me for more years than I care to admit... (getting older and older). I find myself more and more drawn to the early years of the approach, when Malaguzzi first started out researching across the disciplines and picking out out the bits of theories and methods tat worked best for the children and teachers in his care. THIS is what has inspired me the most. Yet I feel that this is what I am not free to do by aligning myself to the Reggio Emilia Approach. So I will be forever grateful for what it has taught me, and what the approach will continue to teach me... but equally I am inspired by all the educators in the group, and elsewhere, that I meet and interact with, that share their learning stories, engagement and their commitment to providing the best care, support and learning adventures in their care.
I sincerely hope that this freedom will be the default for others in the group too... that everyone feels they can share the pedagogical approach they have been developing with their children using the guiding words of play, wonder etc
That we can learn from each other, validate each other.
In the group I have added units where I am adding articles, papers, blogposts and other resources under the ten key words... The aim is that these serve as a resource for your own reflections, but also sources of information to enter dialogues with others, and also with parents, so that they, too, can gain a better understanding of how play and learning go hand in hand and are not competing with each other.
There will be several chats throughout the year... the first will be a kick off on January 2nd and then in March, June, September and December. The aim is to create a space where we can meet online and get to know each other better and explore ideas together beyond the written word. Also, I feel the more we get to know each other, the more trust we will create in the group, and the more people will dare to share their processes as a evolving educator.
I will still approve the posts first... to make sure we keep out spammers and trolls, and also to ensure that the group maintains its aim to be a space of dialogue and not just quick fix inspiration images. For me, always, it is the process of reflecting on why we do what we do, how should it be done, when, what resources etc that is the most important part of our work... it informs us how to interact with the children to empower them, it reminds us of how competent they are, and it reveals how we create a community of learners.