Reasons To Be Pedagogical part 1

Bristol Nursery School, midmorning. The visual artist, Maria, has been offered two days work in the school and has persuaded the management of the school to ‘go off timetable’ and to let teachers ‘follow the children’s’ desires’ during her residency there – although the regular ‘tidy times’ and lunch time remain in the timetable. Within an hour, one teachers temper frays about being left on her own in her own area. There are usually six areas each with a designated member of staff and those boundaries are melted down today – apart from the timetable, structure, the space is a lot more fluid / chaotic. Adults are ‘following what the children want to do’ – the adults have been excused from their responsibility here, and have been denied an identity almost. The walls are as noisy as ever but less imposing – all the focus is being drawn to the kids activities.

Some young wag threw a bean bag at me in the playground which reminded me of a visit to Hindley Prison some years ago and temporarily I felt a bit unsafe, a bit dodgy. A bit iffy. The staff room is chockablock with loads of stuff packed on to chairs, tables, feels vaguely disturbing, a bit like a bad dream. Even Maria is spotting the limits with one of the children who is insisting on taking more clay from the bag with a spoon:
Femi ‘More more more!’
Maria ‘ Use what you’ve got Femi! You’ll have someone’s eye out. Be careful.’

A couple of girls are wandering in and out of the bathroom, scissors in hand – this feels a tad dangerous and I’m thinking about the consequences of one of them coming out with scissors sticking out of their head. A few teachers wander around the classroom aimlessly with cameras in hand, tourists in their own land. Following the children’s desires never felt less desireable.

Poetry on the Hoof: The Reggio ‘No’ and how Early Years practice might prevent inner city meltdown

HEAD TEACHER “Head Teacher looms large!
What? Ask the kids?
But I’m in charge!”

WITNESS No school office, no school bench
No more squirming on top of the fence
No air of grief, no sense of loss,
No more staring down at the kids we’ve lost
No age creeping, no falling asleeping
No slow death watching every move they’re making

CHORUS So prego, ciao, bella e grazie
La Cita Reggio mi piace!

WITNESS No a b c, no me, me, me
No infantilising patronising health and safety
No god almighty fuss, no lack of trust
No cramming it all in till their fit to bust
No going it alone, no give a dog a bone
No fearing for the time when they’re dragged back home

CHORUS So prego, ciao, bella e grazie
La Cita Reggio mi piace!

HEAD TEACHER Head teacher quizzes rhetorical
The name of that plant?
Ask the kids, I’m not biological!

WITNESS So say yes to faith and say yes to grace
Say yes to the schools who lift up their face
From the noise and the groans and the plastic clutter
From the foundation stage and its bottled up rage
with the boxes that need ticking
And the arses that need licking
And the plans that need writing
And the staff that need biting
From the anaesthetic disconnected
Analytic tautologic lack of reciprocity
with its smack of weak authority
And howl of wolves who want to scratch down our doors….

HEAD TEACHER “Head Teacher looms large!
What? Ask the kids?
But I’m in charge!”

CHORUS So prego, ciao, bella e grazie (x3)
La Cita Reggio mi piace!

Performed by the Reggio Maniacs in homage to the inspirational children, parents, teachers and communities of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Accompanying video available upon request 🙂