This past spring The Innovative Teacher Project had its sixth or seventh roundtable event at The Nueva School. I have been attending roundtables for many years and have always been excited to have them at Nueva, as they are such a valuable piece of professional development for both the attendees and for the presenters. What has always felt different for me, though, is that my context extends through eighth grade, and that for a long time, my teaching partner Kirsten and I were the only ones at my school who shared any study of the educational practices in Reggio Emilia. It made events such as roundtables even more important as they were opportunities for us to be around a critical mass of early childhood educators and talk with/learn from colleagues with similar issues on their minds.
But about three years ago things began to change. Nueva generously supported my first study tour to Reggio in the summer of 2010. There was a new first grade teacher, Megan, and she came from a school in SoCal that had been Reggio-inspired. My new teaching partner, Chelsea, had done her training and student teaching in a Reggio inspired preschool. The new Lower School Head, Emily, came to one of the Nueva ITP roundtables and was surprised and pleased to learn how much her ideas about education aligned with those in Reggio Emilia. It felt as if there was a small group building with whom there could be Reggio focused conversations.
Presentations about my study tour to the rest of the Nueva faculty and community continued to raise awareness. A presentation on Malaguzzi’s idea of the environment as “the third teacher” at the beginning of the last school year when everyone was setting up their classrooms stimulated conversations with colleagues from middle school humanities to the school nurse. It felt very moving to see how these ideas that have meant so much to me, touched others in such diverse contexts within the school.
A certain “dream come true” was achieved last February when three of us from Nueva traveled to Italy to attend Reggio Children’s Winter Institute—a study tour specifically focused on current initiatives with older children at the school in The International Center and in the broader city. The special value of attending a study tour with other members of your school community had been emphasized to me in previous conversations with Susan Lyon, but now it was so apparent. It’s about the conversations that happen afterwards regarding your own context. It’s about the collaborative reflections. It’s the pleasure of seeing something you care about addressed or underlined by a leader at your school. It’s about something that feels more sustainable and NOT just what Grant Lichtman calls a “high amplitude, low frequency” kind of professional development event. This new energy has spurred the development of a new, small study group in early childhood at Nueva, focused on inspirations from the work being done in Reggio. Patience and time is definitely called for sometimes and I am looking forward to this new path we are now traveling.