My husband is not happy that in one month from today I will be in Reggio Emilia…without him. He does not like to be left at home, and certainly not when he knows that I am excitedly counting down the days until we are at the Malaguzzi Center. After a few weak arguments about why I shouldn’t go, he said, “If you take Accounting I, why would you need to take Accounting I again”, referring to the fact that this would be my second trip to Reggio. Wouldn’t I just be learning the exact same thing I learned the first time?! Clearly he was a business major., and not an English major, since I have read Macbeth more times than I can count. I have to admit my first response was a bit immature “Well some of the directors have been there five times!” When my son says something like that to me, I usually say, “ I don’t care about what the other children do, I only care about you.” That was pretty much my husband’s response. I don’t care what the other directors have done; we’re talking about you!
So I tried another approach, one that was a bit more mature and thoughtful. I explained to my husband that going to Reggio Emilia was like going to a world-class art museum during you first visit, you wander the halls, with room after room filled with breathtaking art. You are struck with awe and wonder at the paintings, the sculptures, the tapestries and the very building itself. You try to take in as much as you can, and you leave filled to capacity with all that was new and inspiring. If you are an art lover, you plan to back to the same museum again in the future because each time you visit you see something new. Maybe in your next visit you decide to focus on one historical period or one art approach. After your first visit, you know how much the museum offers and you can be more focused on following visits.
That is how early childhood educators visit Reggio Emilia. The lectures, the schools, the town, the educators you meet, all of it is thrilling and at times, overwhelming. Now, with this second visit, Sandy and I are much more planful. What are we going to be looking for specifically? When we visit the schools, we will be looking closer at environment and documentation. We will find new examples of how to enrich our own school now that we are in a different point in our schools’ journey. We have had a number of meetings with other directors and staff Like our last visit four years ago, we are certain that this visit will have an impact on our entire school.
I know it may feel like a leap, but these trips to Reggio echo of the same approach we have to the Torah. Each year we read the same text, and when we end reading the five books of Moses, we do not even take a break, we begin to read from the first chapter of Genesis again. Every time we read the Torah, the stories speak to us in different ways and we have new insights.
So it is with Reggio Emilia the living “torah” of early childhood education (without the divine and the holy – although Reggio educators may disagree). Each time we visit, we see something new, we learn something new, we are recharged, re ignited, and re inspired. It is for us to interpret this “text” and see how it speaks to our unique school culture and the life of our students, families and staff. Reggio offers a rich base for us to mine and bring home ideas and learning that will deepen and strengthen our school culture.
My husband will have to make his peace with my love affair with Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio Approach. If he’s lucky, I may even bring him back some balsamic vinegar and a hunk of Parmesan.