Inspired by Reggio Emilia: Part I

February 20, 2022


I heard the words "Reggio Emilia" for the first time many years ago from my first room partner. I knew that she wanted to "implement Reggio Emilia", but I had no clue what that meant as I had just started learning what it even meant to be an early childhood educator. 


She gave me a textbook to read through called Working in the Reggio Way: A Beginner's Guide for American Teachers by Julianne P. Wurm, but I didn't end up looking at it until several years later when I found it shoved on a shelf along with the textbook Authentic Childhood: Exploring Reggio Emilia in the Classroom by Susan Fraser and Carol Gestwicki.


I had already completed my schooling when I sat down to read through each textbook, but I still did not know what the words "Reggio Emilia" meant, and had only heard whispers from the folklore that follows them around in North America. 


I quickly learned that Reggio Emilia is, in fact, a city in Italy, and there is so much more to adopting the philosophies behind the program that has developed over nearly 80 years than simply switching out plastic toys for natural materials, making lovely presentations to encourage children to play, and taking photographs of what they are doing.


While there were aspects of it that intrigued me, like setting up the environment to be engaging enough to act as the third teacher, I still didn't quite understand everything that was involved; there were always little pieces that I understood, but I could never quite get them to fit together to make sense of the puzzle. 


As I've been going through everything again, I have started to realise that the work I have done on my journey to understand anti-racism and anti-hate has helped me to understand that putting myself aside (my beliefs about children, my own traumas, etc.) is a necessary piece of the puzzle.


Through this work that I have done -- and, believe me, am still learning -- it is easier for me to understand that seeing children as capable means so much more than helping them learn how to do up their own zipper, or clean up their spot at the table; it means that I see myself as a collaborator with them, not just the person that is telling them what to do; it means asking questions in a way that gets them to think a little bit deeper and come up with ideas and solutions themselves. 


It's been a slow process, and has taken a lot of learning and reflection, but, with the help of my room partner, we are starting to understand how we can put the philosophies of the Reggio Emilia approach into place in our classroom.

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