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How do we view children?
Graham (2019, p.xvi), in his book Teaching Redemptively, challenges Christians to consider what education produces if it treats children as ‘objects rather than as God’s image bearers’. Being created in God’s image means, amongst other things, that we are creative, purposeful and free. So why then does education get reduced to children passively absorbing information, with no input from students on what they want to learn, and good grades being given for the reproduction of information?
The philosophy for the school we are in the process of establishing has been greatly influenced by the teachings and work of Louis Malaguzzi. Malaguzzi, a teacher and educational psychologist, worked alongside parents from Reggio Emilia in Italy, after World War II. From this pioneering work the Reggio Approach was birthed, an approach that views children as capable, creative, curious and full of potential. Teachers take on the role as guide and facilitator; co-learning with the children. Phil and I are convinced that the image of the child and teacher the Reggio Approach upholds, is more in-line with what God intended. For more information on the approach go to Reggio Children.
The ‘Reggio Approach’ in KwaZulu Natal
Since mid-August a small group of early childhood development practitioners, including myself, have been meeting. A major element of our discussions has been on how the Reggio Emilia Approach could be introduced to a broader socioeconomic and racial group. That said – recognising the level of support teachers would need meant – we could not see a way forward. So we decided to start with what we had: thinking how we could provide an environment of support to a group of approx. 20 leaders who were passionate and interested in the approach.
Taking the next step
And so, in September we facilitated our first ‘learning circle’ for these leaders. In addition to having space to connect with other leaders interested in the approach and developing skills, we created space for dialogue with the intention of identifying their interests and needs in relation to the Reggio Emilia Approach. As a result two elements have emerged:
- a study group for leaders, meeting fairly regularly
- a conference/workshops for teachers & leaders
Plans for 2018 The conference/workshops will cater for the needs of the staff at the schools represented at the learning circle, and enable the approach to be introduced to a wider group of teachers.
We are working with the Africa Reggio Emilia Alliance and hope to enable the conference to take place early in 2018. It has been so exciting to be part of conversations, take the next step and see what emerges. God has clearly been at work and through collaboration so much has already been achieved.