What I’ve Learned: Naomi McCutcheon, Centre Director

Good news! Another talented teacher embraced the Bear Park learning culture by spending time in Italy this year, visiting the birthplace of Reggio Emilia philosophy. Naomi McCutcheon is Centre Director for our Kohimarama centre. She soaked up the spring weather for 10 days in April, learning with other educators. Read on below for her insights and ideas. 

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Q: First things first. How long have you been teaching children through the Reggio Emilia approach?
I’ve been teaching early childhood education for fifteen years. Seven of these have been educating through a Reggio lens. This part of my teaching began when I joined the team at Bear Park seven years ago and I’ve never looked back.

Q: How is professional development at Reggio worthwhile to you as an experienced early childhood teacher?
Reggio’s emphasis on professional development is really worthwhile. It offers a new perspective and a deeper understanding of the philosophy behind the approach. My teaching work is influenced by both the Reggio Emilia approach and Te Whāriki curriculum, so I’m very aware that Reggio within a New Zealand context is different from that in Italy. Because of this, I’ve always been curious to know if my interpretation of the Reggio Emilia approach is in line with the philosophy that underpins it. And secondly, how my practice compares to that of the pedagogistas in Italy.  

It was also a fantastic opportunity to connect on a global level with teaching professionals from around the world.

Q: What ideas would you like to bring to life, or do more of at Bear Park Kohimarama as Centre Director?
I’d like to bring our parents, children and educators together and create a robust learning community. Each stakeholder will have equal voice in deciding what we as a centre value and what our place is in the wider community.  

Q: What will you always remember about your time in the city?
I loved soaking up the community’s energy and visiting the schools. When you see first hand how they do things, especially the passion that the teachers share for their work with children, it’s very inspiring. It was obvious that the city as a whole truly values early childhood education. A lot of the children’s work is visible in different parts of the city.

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Q: How are teachers viewed in Reggio? Is it different to the perception of early childhood teachers in New Zealand?
I’m not sure if teachers are viewed differently or that teachers view their role differently. I feel like early childhood education is more valued by society in Italy. Everyone, even those who don’t have children or work in education, understand the role young children will play in a society’s future. There’s a clear image of what kind of future they want based on Italy’s history.

The educators also place a lot of value on their work. Perhaps we as educators in New Zealand should stop waiting to be validated by others. Instead, we must value ourselves and the important work we do.

Q: How have your understandings of Reggio philosophy been enhanced by visiting its birthplace?
My understandings of the Reggio approach are not so much enhanced as they are solidified. I have renewed confidence in knowing that my understanding of this approach is in line with the philosophical underpinnings of the founder, Loris Malaguzzi.

It was great to see educators in Reggio ask themselves the same questions as New Zealand teachers, when considering how to implement the Reggio approach in the classroom. I left the city confident that the heart of the Reggio approach is not so much what resources we use but how we use them. Our pedagogical approach and our image of teacher, child and parent is what’s most important. 

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