Friday, June 7, 2013

Innovate!

As many teachers around the country are getting ready for weeks of vacation, the teachers at our year-round center are still in the thick of things, but starting to look to our transition in August. During the last week of July, we'll have a week of professional development, and hard work on our physical environments, and then at the start of August, we'll be ready to welcome children to their new classrooms. This is a wonderful moment to pause, reflect on the year that is drawing to a close, and begin planning for what we'll do next year.

Each year, our teachers collect new ideas from outside our community, in books, articles or at trainings and conferences and adapt them to our context. For instance: 
  • The symbols that many classrooms  use as tools for building identity, community and pre-literacy skills came from my experience at Hilltop Children's Center in Seattle. However, we've never heard of anyone using symbol curriculum in an infant room the way that Jen, Sasha and Mari did.
  • Our focus on loose parts and recyclable materials was inspired by the book "Beautiful Stuff" by Cathy Wiesman Topol and Lella Gandini.
  • Our implementation of anti-bias curriculum was grounded in  Louise Derman-Spark's classic book.
  • The work of Magda Gerber really transformed our ideas about respect for babies.
  • Teachers meeting together for professional development is a common practice in centers that use the Reggio Emilia approach, however our weekly provocations are unusual in their scope, variety of topics, attendees (one teacher from each classrooms and our non-teacher staff) and flexible format.
Our weekly teacher provocations in June will feature teachers talking about innovations they've made this year. This is different from our annual Showcase which will take place in a few weeks, which invites teachers to show off what they are most proud of. Instead, I'm asking teachers to talk about specific innovations that I think other teachers may want to try. My focus is not just on the practice, but on the teachers' process of innovation.

I've been learning over the last few years about "organizational knowledge"; how an organization can learn and hold information and ideas. In Reggio Emilia, all processes are collaborative. Ideas always involve the collective rather than the individual. This reflective, community-minded approach combined with an emphasis on documentation leads to organizations rich in historical memory that can hold a lot of knowledge. This month's provocations are opportunities for us to share and for me to document some of the innovation taking place at our center, and contribute to our center's store of knowledge. Over the next month, I'll be describing our conversations here. 




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