Victoria Snyder is a teacher of 2 year olds at Westwood Lutheran Early Childhood Center in St. Louis Park, MN. Westwood teachers collaborated with Boulder Journey School (Boulder, Colorado) consultants Alison Maher and Andrea Sisbarro in July, 2016.
I experienced a real game-changing moment while collaborating with consultants from the Boulder Journey School. From the moment my teaching team sat down with Alison Maher and Andrea Sisbarro, I knew that my practice would be forever changed. They invited me to think about my written observations of my students. What they shared was not new information to me, however, it was about the way in which they delivered the advice, so specific and relevant to my work, that helped me understand on a deeper level. The conversation was not only inspiring, it prompted me to put into motion some plans that I had been thinking about for a long time.
For example, my toddlers are currently very interested in Matchbox cars. Now, when I write an observation about their interactions with the cars, I write exactly what they are doing with the cars. I ask myself, are they making noises as they roll the cars? Are they lining them up in a row? Who is involved in this scheme? My next action is to consider an abundance of ideas and ways for the children to use the cars in different ways. Alison and Andrea challenged us to generate a list of 50 different things children could do with the cars. In addition they challenged us to think about why the children are so attracted to these cars. Is it because they are new? Could it be the variety in shape and color or is it because there are a lot of them? These observations help me be more intentional and deepen the children’s experiences.
I was inspired and motivated by the conversation and have begun to rethink my classroom environment, especially the materials. Alison and Andrea commented that they see the same materials in classrooms worldwide. They also challenged us to think about “everyday” materials paired with unique items. What can we as educators offer children that they don’t already have? This insight helped me open my mind and classroom for more “outside the box” ideas and materials that might afford children new and diverse experiences, for instance, pairing the beloved Matchbox cars with different colored and textured ribbon. Generating ideas this way helped me to explore multiple possibilities for deepening children’s interests.
This rich dialogue amongst educators opened up many questions for me. For example, how can we create more opportunities for inspiring dialogue such as this? How would professional development change if administrators offered opportunities to educators that meet them wherever they are along their journey? How can we put all the amazing things that we learn into motion? And, how can we always remain open to others’ advice? The wish for myself and for fellow educators is to find a way to manifest these interactions that are so powerful that they help create the highest quality of care, for which we as Reggio-inspired educators strive.