Saturday, November 14, 2009

Interview with a master teacher (Social Constructivism/Reggio Emilia)

How do you create the curriculum for your classroom?
The curriculum is created upon the children interests. It is a combination of organic and emergent curriculum. Emergent refers to a provocation and then following what comes next. It involves external motivations. Organic refers to the children’s thoughts and discussion which come from their internal knowledge.
“The children theories allow us to explore and infuse traditional learning”

What resources do you use to create the curriculum?
Besides the children interests, they use the materials, past experiences and the environment.
The atelieristas (an artist familiar with different types of materials and techniques to use them with the purpose of enhancing the learning process) help the teacher in the introduction of new materials and resources to be used to create new provocations. Provocations (or changes) are created in areas that are “dead”. It is important to make changes but not changing everything at once. “It is a dance between the familiar and the new.”
Since the teachers move from classroom to classroom with the group, they also use ideas and interests that carry over from the prior year. The documentation is important.
In regards to the environment, she makes sure things are accessible and children have enough resources lo learn. She makes sure the space is open, inviting, welcoming and comforting. It is created just for the children but in a way that allows adults to enter and interact from a child’s perspective.
One resource that she did not mentioned but I know they use at the school is Re-discover. It is a recycling center full of objects and materials for children use in educational settings.

How do you make sure that the curriculum is based on the developmental level of the group and every child?
Observation. She does not use the traditional evaluation standards that are used in traditional schools. She is proud that the school has a wide range of what is “normal”. We learn at different levels and different speed. “Children reach their potential with time and opportunities to practice and master different skills.”

How do you deal with difficult behavior?

“Directly” was her answer. She stated that in the Reggio Philosophy they talk to children as capable thinking citizens. They have high levels of expectation that are reinforced before, during and after the behavior. The process is reflective intended to show what the behavior is creating for them and everyone around them. “Children as well as children are able to change their behavior when that reflection takes place.“

What considerations do you have in mind when you are leading large group meetings and transitions?
If you start the activity after the transition time, Children will join with out any need of control. Usually other children or teachers will notify children that the meeting started. I have seen it in action and it actually works. I think the fact that this is the second year of the group working with the teacher plays a mayor factor in their behavior.

Do you have any tips for conducting small groups?
The school conducts small group work on a regular basis which involves a teacher and a small group working on a particular interest that aroused the day before. The main role of the teacher is to listen carefully and ask meaningful questions in order to encourage children to create hypothesis and test their theories while constructing their knowledge with each other.

- Feed them first. Hungry tummies lead to wondering minds.
- Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Set aside your sense of knowing as it limits the learning around you.
- Be aware of the intellectual capacity and thinking process of the children around you.

“Your conversations with the children are full or wonder and present unlimited possibilities for learning for you and the children”

Do you have an outcome in mind when you conduct small groups?
“SURE. Having an expectation where things may go is human, but most of the time that means that I am way of track. Children have their own sense of direction”

How do you know when to keep the group focused on one concept and when to explore new ideas within the frame of the experience or go completely of track during small group work?
“When children look concerned, when they leave, or when I feel that I am taking to myself.”

What advice can you give to a new teacher ?

- Be patient with yourself
- Children are the best teacher you will ever going to have.
- It is amazing when you leave work and you’ve learned something.
- Be fearless!
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

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