“We don’t want to teach children something that they can learn themselves. We don’t want to give them thoughts that they can come up with themselves. What we want to do is activate within children the desire and will and great pleasure that comes from being the authors of their own learning. “
This quote by Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia schools in Italy is on our website and was chosen because we believe in its message of what it means to teach a child in the preschool setting. At the Opal conference last week, I attended a session led by Opal founder Judy Graves. She too mentioned the importance of this quote and highlighted the impact of the word activate. Judy discussed that our role as teachers and educators is not to motivate children, which would imply placing an external imposition of our ideas onto them.
We are constantly reflecting on the role of the teacher in the education of young children. What are our primary goals for ourselves, and the children? Are they aligned with our practice in the classroom? In a constructivist school we believe that children make meaning and gain knowledge for themselves as they discuss and problem solve with their peers, use materials that will provoke and deepen their understanding of various concepts, tell stories and engage with a narrative, and play out scenarios to help them make sense of an idea they are pondering over. So what does it mean to activate? What is the role of the teacher? Certainly a big part of the role of the teacher lies in making decisions that will help the children to expand their thinking. That may come in the form of a question, choosing a picture book, presenting a material or several materials, gathering children with different points of view to share their ideas with one another, or setting up a provocation to help them test out a theory. It is why, instead of teaching a lesson about how for instance yellow and blue make green, we offer yellow and blue paint and delight in the discoveries that unfold. There is nothing more magical than witnessing children as authors of their own learning.