Investing in our teachers is paramount in our thinking, so providing opportunities for international professional development is one of our natural ways of ensuring this.
Going to Reggio Emilia to take part in the study tour is something that I had looked forward to and heard about for many years when I first began working at Bear Park Remuera in 2015. I always remember my senior teachers coming back with so much inspiration and enthusiasm, then seeing that inspiration come to life as they enriched our environments, investigative learning projects or as they shared meaningful anecdotes in conversations as well as their in depth presentations.
When I was offered the opportunity to experience this for myself I didn’t know what to expect, but I soon realised this is not just an approach to teaching and learning, this is truly the culture of a people, created from their unique history. This educational approach is so rich and meaningful because it is born from the history of the city and this is something to be greatly respected. I learnt that this is not something to be copied and pasted into our teaching and learning contexts in Aotearoa but rather something that we can learn from and interpret.
The educational leaders began the study tour stating; “You will be leaving here with more questions than answers”. In my experience this is true, not as a state of confusion, rather as a pedagogical approach. I now truly understand the meaning of being an open, aware and curious teacher. If you remain open, you can truly be present with the children and listen with all your senses to see all the possibilities and potentials of each interaction and each child. This is not to say we should leave everything to go in any direction, instead if you are well prepared, organised and very intentional, you can truly be open to understanding what it is that the children are trying to tell you.
The concepts that underpin this approach to learning are valued by the people of the city. These values represent their experiences and history and are in place so that they do not lose their culture or vision for what they want for their children. These concepts have supported me to think deeply about the kaiako I am and want to be; an advocate, a connector, a communicator, a listener, a co-constructor, a researcher and a nurturer. This experience has been a focal point in, not only my teaching career but in my life. It has supported me to think from different perspectives, ignited new passions, and given me a deeper sense of purpose as a kaiako.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela.