Reggio Emilia Model Approach Philosophy of Education Early Childhood Education Helicopter Paren

The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Years Education

“In educational terms, the northern Italian town of Reggio Emilia has a firmly established worldwide reputation for forward thinking and excellence in its approach to early childhood education. North American and Scandinavian educators have long recognized the importance of the continuing educational development that is taking place in the Reggio model, and there is much about the approach that is of interest to educators in Australia. It is a socio-constructivist model. That is, it is influenced by the theory of Lev Vygotsky, which states that children (and adults) co-construct their theories and knowledge through the relationships that they build with other people and the surrounding environment. It also draws on the work of others such as Jean Piaget, Howard Gardner and Jerome Bruner. It promotes an image of the child as a strong, capable protagonist in his or her own learning, and, importantly, as a subject of rights.” (Early Stars, YMCA, http://www.perth.ymca.org.au/getdoc/1d73d2cb-c314-462b-be24-1a3461cbbe6a/The-Reggio-Emilia-Approach-to-Early-Years-Educatio.aspx).

Teachers work in pairs and loop for three years, so that there is a strong connection with the children. If you think that teachers do everything in a public school, acting as facilitators, nurturer, counselor, etc., you would find working in such a center run differently than any other. Teachers are involved in nap times and meal times; there are no “lunch ladies”. Many of them have lunch with the children, and are not as free to have a break.

“Rather than seeing the child as an empty vessel waiting eagerly to be filled with knowledge, Reggio educators believe strongly in a child with unlimited potential who is eager to interact with and contribute to the world. They believe in a child who has a fundamental right to ‘realize and expand their potential’. This is a child who is driven by curiosity and imagination, a capable child who delights in taking responsibility for his or her own learning, a child who listens and is listened to, a child with an enormous need to love and to be loved, a child who is valued. Indeed the way in which children’s many strengths and abilities are valued and ‘listened to’ is fundamental to this approach.” (http://www.perth.ymca.org.au/getdoc/1d73d2cb-c314-462b-be24-1a3461cbbe6a/The-Reggio-Emilia-Approach-to-Early-Years-Educatio.aspx).

The pedagogy of this construct is child-centered and child-directed. The teacher is looked at as a learner, herself. Most educators look at the child as a person that should be filled with knowledge as the writer of the article read has stated. What one can disagree with is that the author doesn’t seem to think that these empty “vessels” should allow curiosity and true learning and can be allowed to do this with conventional education. The Reggio approach allows too much free-spirited curious learning, where “anything goes”. The believers of this approach feel that it is detrimental to have rules and constraints. Let them take out every toy and explore, seems to be their attitude. What happened to social constraints and guidelines, that are needed to live in this society? An example of this would be teaching children to put things away and have some sort of order.

Creative expression is important within this program, letting the child express herself or himself constantly. The teacher is supposed to listen, not just watch, as to what the children are ready to do. Many educators don’t believe in this philosophy, those that feel that structure is important. The Reggio Model also believes in all types of children’s rights and follows a Charter. While children are little people who have dignity and should be respected as living people who will grow and become responsible adults, many educators find it difficult to swallow their whole philosophy. They believe in “children’s rights” to the extreme. Most adults believe that children are often given too many rights, and while they are minors, and adults need to guide them; they should have no rights. Should we worry about democratic rights of children who can’t even decide if they should brush their teeth, do their homework, or be kind to others, without the guidance and support of adults?

What happens to children who themselves think that they have rights, is that they try to rule and run adults. They threaten suing parents and teachers, and seem to grow up to be the most disrespectful children, in turn, obnoxious adults. Is this a generalization? Perhaps it is, but such is the scenario of many children who are brought up with this philosophy at home, even if they do not go to a Reggio pre-school. They are allowed to hang up art work in formal living rooms, because their mother believes in no restrictions and allows their creations to be posted as if their home was a museum. They are occupied 7 days a week without a moment of “down time”. Their emphasis is on creativity and often, manners are not encouraged. Their parents do not know how to say “no” and give in to their endless demands. Rationalization and constant explanation through talking becomes the only interaction between the mother and a 2-year old instead of saying “no”.

Many educators and adults have seen this behavior, without ever knowing of their philosophy and what it was called; it is the obvious attempt for children to be the center of attention, everywhere, with parents thinking that they were put on earth to entertain them all the time. Children do not seem to fear their parents and cross the line with authority. The Reggio Emilia model is an approach that interests educators across the world, and while many people, even in one country, have their own philosophies, look at what works and doesn’t work. This philosophy is that of the 40-year olds’ generation, where children are out of control, have no consequences of their actions, and will grow up to be the most selfish self-centered generation, with their parents hovering over them, not allowing them to mature.

The “helicopter” parent-attitude will continue as they continue to go out into the workforce, with parents telling their offspring’s bosses that they are too hard on their children, the company’s employee. We are seeing that now, with children in their twenties, and it is only getting worse as the 40-year old parents, who never believed in constraining children in playpens, and have their priorities altered. Since when should softball games be more important than church or family functions? Reggio Emila is supposed to be thought of as “forward thinking”, where many of these contributors and recipients should realize that it is “backwards thinking”, where the child is looked at as, not an extension of a parents’ love, but the only thing that matters, putting the couple’s relationship last!