Thursday, 2 April 2015

RIE Foundations Course - My reflection

I can’t help but marvel at the splendid miracle that is the child, to observe in awe children's development unfolding. Through out the RIE foundations course, my mind kept going back to Psalm 139:13-141 which says;

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

I don’t know why we ever thought we knew better, that babies needed to be taught how to work their own bodies. As I watched the footage from “see how they move”, I was amazed at how the children moved fluidly and with so much grace. It clicked for me that this is how humans are supposed to move, it was planned all along, programmed into the brains of infants. I have been so amazed at each individual child that I care for and keep finding myself constantly pointing out what children are doing to the other teachers so they don’t miss out on the incredible things that are being accomplished. I want to share with you what I observed on my first day back at work after the course concluded: I watched in anticipation as Rehua (11 months) practiced climbing up the slide, placing a hand on each side of the slide and carefully creeping up the slope. He stood on the front part of each foot with his toes stretched out, concentrating hard as he moved his feet one by one with his arms stretched out and his hands firmly gripping the sides to keep him balanced. Each attempt he made at climbing to the top he would find himself losing his balance at a certain point and sliding back down. Each time this point seemed to become ever so slightly higher on the slide. I could see his goal was to reach the top, his eyes were focused on the top of the slide and there was a determination in the way he moved his body so intentionally. Disruption was not an option as Rehua’s work was very important and the routines needed to be arranged around his work for the day. Eventually after going back to the slide constantly over the course of a day he mastered the climb to the top. He stood tall on the top of the box and looked over to me to see if I saw and we shared a smile. In that moment I felt privileged to have observed his achievement. I can’t help but wonder how many moments I have missed like this because I was so wrapped up in tasks that I didn’t take the time to observe. Amazing things are always happening around me all the time and I really need to take more time to appreciate them. This is a big thing I took from the course, learning to enjoy the moments.

I always felt I was respectful as a teacher but I truly saw what respectful practice looks like through the footage of baby Victor and his nurse at the Pikler institute. Watching their interactions really touched me and made me think of my own work with children and how I can show them this level of love and respect. The biggest thing for me is not the physical learning environment, or changes to the running of the day (although there are changes to be made) but my relationship with each child. Through this course I have developed an acute awareness of myself and how I interact with children, I am aware of my hands when I am caring for children, aware that touch is a way of speaking. I am aware of my voice, my language has changed slightly and I put thought into the words I choose. I am aware of my pace; trying to be in tune with the individual child and less concerned with the tasks, the relationship is the priority. As I reflect on my first week back at work, the word I would use to describe each day is ‘seamless’, time seemed so irrelevant when I was engrossed in care moments with the children.

Authenticity was a key word through out the course, we talked about the authentic child and how we as teachers can support children in becoming their authentic selves. Polly challenged us to search for our own authentic selves and explained how the ‘authentic teacher’ is paramount in supporting the authenticity of the children. The course left me feeling so philosophical and I have been pondering a lot about who I am and who the children see. I am inspired by so many different things in my life and more specifically as a teacher, many philosophies and approaches inform my work with children. I realised that I will always be reflecting on and adjusting my personal philosophy, we learned through the course that even Magda Gerber did this! I am challenged to look at how the course of my life has shaped me as a person and who it is that I bring to the children. This is an ongoing reflection for me.

In reflecting on the course, I could have written pages about all the things I want to do to improve my program such as implementing primary caregiving, providing children with more equipment to develop their gross motor skills or my plan to rethink the design of our change room; all of which I plan to do and all of which are important. But what I gained from this course runs so much deeper and has me reflecting on who I am as a teacher. it is hard to put it all in to words but I hope this reflection has left you with the essence of what I gained through my time on the RIE foundations course which is an appreciation and respect of children which has me truly wanting to be the best I can be for them. I will always strive for this.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Paving the way for purposeful play!

 Reggio Emilia inspired school in Hong Kong
EtonHouse International School - A Reggio Emilia inspired space for infants and toddlers
A while ago a group of teachers from outside my centre came through our classrooms for a tour. We had some amazing comments from each individual and everyone walked away really inspired. I ended up having a big conversation with a teacher who is montessori trained and she was explaining that the Pipi environment felt slightly montessori inspired to her, in that all the materials were in the child's reach and that the environment strongly promoted independence. I had never thought of our environment as Montessori inspired before but I guess a lot of our aspirations for children align with that of Montessori especially our desire to create opportunities for children to practice and gain independence. One thing this teacher did explain to me was that Montessori environments offer a lot less of a material (for example a small basket of duplo instead of a big plastic tub) to the child and that everything is visible to the child and not hidden inside baskets. This really got me thinking and I observed our children at play in the months following. They did not seem to play with the things in the baskets unless the basket was placed on the floor so that they could see the contents. We noticed that the toddlers play with the most familiar materials (blocks and duplo) had become rather destructive and that the children were moving materials around the room and throwing them. They were not as purposeful in their play as they had been when the resources were new. My team and I wondered whether there was too much available and decided to put some toys away and rotate the options so that they may become more special. This seemed to help with some resources and children's play was certainly more purposeful! One day I decided to put out only a small basket of duplo and I was amazed that the children were engaged for a lot longer in their play with this material. My goal now is to de-clutter our classroom! 

The clean, uncluttered nature of Montessori environments invite children to reminds adults that it is not the quantity of works to be offered, but the quality. An orderly environment helps children to play productively and with purpose. RIE environments also promote this idea of organisation and predictably for infants and toddlers. They put only a few play objects in each shelf so the infant or toddler can see exactly what they need.

I feel a cluttered environment with too many resources is overwhelming for a child. I feel it promotes more destructive behavior in toddlers. I want to provide a calm environment that promotes productive and purposeful exploration!

Here is some inspiration I have had for this goal...

A very beautiful interpretation of RIE - What an empowering space for an infant to work!

Asilo Nido "Katia Franci" - A montessori environment for infants

The amazing Kate from an every day story has created the most beautiful (and organised) environment for her two children! This space is both inspired by Reggio Emilia and Montessori.

I'll keep you posted on our mission to pave the way for purposeful play!