By Louise Jupp
I have just recently returned from Singapore where I had the honour and privilege of facilitating, documenting and learning alongside educators from around the world. Together we explored provocations, reflections and our understanding of play based learning. One of the first messing about invitations I offered the community was the challenge to build a city. Construction began with only three materials, white paper, tape and scissors.
As the morning continued, the city grew, mostly in companionable silence, occasionally interrupted by a brief conversation about construction logistics and decisions. I spent the creatively peaceful hour taking photos from many angles.
The completed city was a magical piece of combined thoughtful creativity and complex construction. A visual fabric of connection and community stood as a reminder of our varied but shared experience within our own cultural contexts. We spent the rest of the day in dialogue, reflecting on the learning inherent in the task, the power of materials and the challenges faced by teachers in their efforts to make learning visible as a means to support knowledge gained through the hundred languages of children. Although experiences were varied, thoughtful conversation lead to the discovery of synchronicity in connections and similarities of practice and dissonance when disparate ideologies and opinions emerged. Having built a city together, it now seemed safe to reveal our professional discrepancies and our heartfelt beliefs as we ended our first day together.
That evening as I was preparing for the following day, I hesitated in my plans to revisit the white paper city with more materials. A primary focus of the workshops was the idea of a sense of wonder in learning communities and I struggled with the possibility that perhaps the magic of the white paper city might be tarnished if we went back to construction the following day.
As I reflected on one of my PowerPoint slides, highlighting the quote from Rachel Carson, I also considered how important it is to embrace our sense of intuition, bravery and courage as an educator. I needed to be prepared to face the possibility of resistance to altering the cherished “white paper city.” I needed to accept that my “hoped for” insights and reflections as a result of further messing about with the city just might not be realized. Of course, my hesitation was bigger than the city, it was the manifestation of a typical “what if” fear that I have as an educator. Like many educators I know and love, I am professionally plagued with the occupational hazard of “perfection.” I find it easy to defend the gift of “failure” as an invitation to learning, but this perceived failure is harder to accept when the learning is my own. Gathering my courage, I forged ahead the next day with an invitation to add more materials, all with one thing in common.
Suddenly, the fabric of our city took an aesthetically pleasing, community building and very colourful turn! Fellow educators embraced colour in the white paper city and as the building continued, a simultaneous rich dialogue grew among educators working together in their creative pursuits.
The white paper city continued to grow in thoughtful representation of the many components of our combined knowledge of the societies where we live. Participants added people, plants, dogs, ponds and lakes, fish and ducks. What was once a very simple town was now a lively, thriving community. The construction of the city mirrored the relationships we were building with each other as people and as educators during the time we spent together. I couldn’t help but smile as I thought of our Reggio Inspired twitter community, how we support each other in our practice and bravely share our questions, our doubts and our ideas. The space we have carved as a community feels safe and I think invites authenticity and vulnerability in our efforts to provide inspiration and support to one another.
I hope that our journey together is a reminder to us all that we are heroes, to ourselves and to others. We are our own teachers first, rich in experience and creativity, knowledge and strength. We authentically own our beliefs, our attitudes and our self-doubt, and embrace these challenges as invitations to reflect on our practice, to continually question our decisions, to dialogue with our professional communities and to carry on with the gift of teaching with a heightened sense of commitment and courage.