A Preface to My Reggio Emilia Study Tour Narratives
I have returned from Italy with a paradigmatic shift in my thinking. Carlina Rinaldi set up a framework for approaching our study tour as she describes a key Reggio Emilia concept of the Teacher as Researcher. As Carlina Rinaldi said during her kickoff keynote, “This is an attitude. A way of being.” I came to Reggio Emilia with an eagerness and openness that preempted an absorption of this way of being. I have entered a new era of my life that can be attributed to this new attitude. As I have already spent days in and out of my classroom, I find that I pay attention to different details, and find different meanings in my analysis of these details.
Before I left to Reggio Emilia, I felt that I was only grasping at the fringes of a concept that seemed more magical than real. I had questions, and lots of them. Never in my life had I ever had so many “lightbulb” moments of clarity in such a short period of time; each moment of clarity seemed to come just mere minutes apart from each other. (As a digression, it is curious how when illumination occurs, I encounter more surface area. It is as if I was only holding a match in a room that had all the answers, and now I hold a lantern. I have more to look at now, and that leads me to further depths of darkness and uncertainty).
I want to preface any further reflection or narrative of my study tour experience in Reggio Emilia with a concept that I wholeheartedly accepted while in Reggio Emilia. This concept is of my personal subjective learning. What I experienced and encountered in Reggio Emilia is something that at least 150 other people experienced and encountered as they were colleagues in this study tour. Each of us came with our own personal contexts and understandings, and each of us surely walked away with our own interpretations of what was important. Each of us paid attention to different details. There were concepts that were more pronounced for some than for others. I cannot attempt to recreate these experiences, nor can I stand on higher ground and attempt to tell people how to operate. If I am going to play the role of a change agent, it will be because I will include my voice in the dialogue, and my voice will have behind it these experiences I had in Reggio Emilia. At this particular point in time, I don’t seek to play the role of a change agent as much as I seek to do my own research. This is most positively a result of this new attitude I have that is congruent with the Reggio Emilia approach’s understanding of dialogue and the teacher as a researcher.
What I hope to do is to do what any good piece of documentation would do which is to leave traces of my subjective learning and understanding. What I hope results from my traces is that new channels for dialogue open up for me and for you. Maddalena Tedeschi, in her description of Loris Malaguzzi’s visionary creation of the culture of the atelier, uses the metaphor of a “marketplace of ideas” where people could reciprocally “exchange their wares” from diverse perspectives and backgrounds. May we all come and create our own marketplace then, and may we come to our own shared understandings, and may we hybridize and synthesize the theories that works for own cultural context. May we develop now what Malaguzzi did 50 years ago, and ask generative questions instead of making conclusions. And may we demand a quality of education that we know will ensure a strong place for children, because as Carlina Rinaldi said, “What can be good for children can be good for everyone in life.”