In the video below, Ysidro introduces himself and shares a little bit about his personal context and what he values about Boulder Journey School so far in his journey as a Resident Teacher.
Below, Ysidro touches upon the importance and space for perspective taking within his 2022-2023 Boulder Journey School cohort. He shares why he chose the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program and what he loves about Boulder; he also speaks to the supportive environment of the Teacher Education Program & the importance of the anti-bias/anti-racist commitments within the school community.
Lauren Robinson, a Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program graduate and current Boulder Journey School Mentor Teacher, shared her reflections after revisiting Carlina Rinaldi’s “The Pedagogy of Listening: The Listening Perspective from Reggio Emilia.” Lauren connected her reflections to a visual mini-story she created for the course A Colorado Interpretation of the Reggio Approach, one of the courses she took while completing her Residency MA in Early Childhood Education.
Lauren Robinson: It was really helpful to have my mini-story in mind while reading through Rinaldi’s “The Pedagogy of Listening.” I was able to refresh my knowledge on what listening truly means, and relate it back to the experience that I captured and analyzed for my mini-story. Specifically, a couple of Rinaldi’s ‘meanings of listening’ that were listed really resonated with me. The first one that stood out to me was “Listening is generated by curiosity, desire, doubt, and uncertainty.” I feel like as adults, things like doubt and uncertainty are feared. Butwhen we get in tune with children and ask questions about what they’re thinking and feeling, we are able to embrace things like doubt and uncertainty, because they motivate the researcher in us. This is closely related to the second ‘meaning of listening’ statement that resonated with me, which was “Listening produces questions, not answers.” Seeking answers to questions is natural, but again, as adults we tend to value the answers more than the questions, when they can equally tell us just as much about whatever experience we’re having. This statement also really embodies the idea that process is just as (or more!) important as product, like how having questions is just as important as having answers.
When I read this article at the beginning of the year, it felt much harder to comprehend then it does now. I definitely attribute that to the quality time that I have gotten to spend with the children and in the classroom. I have been learning so much about being present with children, truly listening to them, and honoring whatever it is they are trying to tell us. My definition of a teacher has expanded so immensely in these past few months, and in turn my confidence in my capabilities as a teacher and my role in these children’s lives has increased!
View Lauren’s visual mini-story below. You may notice Lauren uses the language of photography to listen to this moment of connection between children.
What do the photographs tell you about the teacher’s capacity to deeply listen? What do the photographs say about children’s capacity(ies) to listen and connect? What does Lauren’s visual mini-story tell you about the teacher’s choice to document in this moment? Please leave your comments below.
In order to progress in the field of Education, the world needs teachers who do not always do things because they are popular or because they have been done a particular way. Teachers should be willing to experiment, to take risks, and to be audacious, recognizing that not just any education is good enough.
Mayra Tubac is a Graduate student currently enrolled in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program. Mayra is completing her residency in one of the infant rooms at Boulder Journey School. Maureen Condon, Boulder Journey School Mentor, sat down with Mayra to pick her brain about the professional competency of courage.
Q: What have you learned about courage while teaching during the 2021-2022 school year?
Q: What opportunities for learning about courage exist within the context of teaching during a pandemic, when circumstances consistently change?
Q: What have you learned from children about courage?
Q: What have you learned from your fellow Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program cohort members about courage?
Q: What have your fellow cohort members learned about courage from you?
Below, Mayra joyfully connecting with a child in her class.
Resident Teachers work with Mentor Teachers and Pedagogical Support Faculty, including the Studio Teacher, to deepen practices around Observation, Documentation, and Assessment.
Jacie Engel, Studio Teacher, offers the following verse to explore the children’s experiences while visiting the studio.
The older infants in room 3 recently visited the studio, encountering light projected onto fabric.
To go inside, into, within,
to cross over and through-
these movements of curiosity plot new points of reference that expand our understanding of self as part of,
and within the world.
It’s magic, this world.
Because we find that it includes not just the unknown and the mystery.
It resonates with this possibility- here, there, and for what’s on “the other side”.
We find that this world includes me...
And it includes you.
We’re here together!
Let’s play with our togetherness.
Can we hide ourselves?
Who is hidden,
Me or you?
Let’s find each other,
and relocate our awarenesses.
A spontaneous game.
An improvisation of innate connection. We know how to play it.
I can’t see you.
You can’t see me.
But I know you’re there.
I feel you.
And the anticipation…
Let’s find each other again…
The course, Observation, Documentation, and Assessment is one of the introductory courses offered through both the Residency and Online Master’s Program. To view course descriptions and learn more about applying to join the Teacher Eduction Program, visit the website.
This year’s cohort of Teacher Education Program Resident Teachers experienced changes in our national society, the likes of which have not been seen in our lifetimes. Through it all, they remained dedicated to learning alongside and from the young children in their classes.
Rachel Lurie, Resident Teacher, 2019-2020, submitted the following paper as the Culminating Assessment of her year enrolled in the Teacher Education Program. She spoke to her growth, her challenges, and her hopes for the future.
I grew up in an unstable home where children did not have a voice. As we grew into adults we were expected to be stable and communicative. This translation was not possible. What we learn in childhood translates to who we are as adults.
I became a teacher six years ago to empower children, yet less than a year ago I truly began to understand what it means to hold a strong image of the child. Children are innovative, brilliant, powerful, and empathetic. Throughout this past year working at Boulder Journey School as well as learning alongside and from some of the most beautiful minds in the Early Childhood Education world I find myself becoming less of a teacher and more of an advocator and lifelong learner. The word “teacher” has taken on a new meaning for me.
This experience has opened my mind to the importance of families and communities and how to partner with them. I have learned of my own biases and how to acknowledge and work to diminish them. I learned to celebrate diversity and many different cultures for they are the fabrics that weave together to make our school whole. And, most importantly, I have learned about the young learners in all of their magnificence – how to honor their voices, how to learn alongside them in their wonder, how to advocate for their rights, how to document their curiosities. The child is powerful beyond all measure.
During this time I have grown not only as a teacher, but as a person. One extremely noticeable change is in my leadership abilities. Visionary leadership is defined through the Boulder Journey School Professional Qualities as, “your capacity for being a leader in your professional context who inspires others. You will possess a vision for the present and for the future and understand how your daily actions and interactions with children and adults does or does not model elements of your vision. You will view yourself as a leader who wants to co-create other leaders.”
To speak to this growth I first need to establish what my baseline was prior to the Teacher Education Program. My undergraduate degree was in psychology. I did not have formal training in education and thus possessed a sense of imposter syndrome. I would never have considered myself a leader, I barely considered myself a teacher.
During the Fall semester we began our learning adventure creating a solid foundation that we built upon during the Spring semester. However, halfway through the Spring semester we were plagued with COVID-19. When the pandemic swept the world the families of our classroom turned to us with questions – What do they do? How do they teach their children? How can they continue learning at home?
In that moment we became much more than teachers, we became confidants. We were the experts for the families and the friendly faces for our students.We quickly became the leaders in this unprecedented time. We were the stability in all of the chaos. We had daily Zoom meetings every morning which our students along with their siblings and parents would attend. Parents would email us asking us specific behavioral questions, how to spark imagination and creativity in their child, how to extend the learning to home. School buildings may have been closed, but it did not end education. Their home was also functioning as a school.
To me this encompassed the foundation that Reggio Emilia schools were built on – parents and teachers working alongside each other to give students an authentic education. We, as teachers, set the pace and the families followed our lead, but it was a dialogue to make sure both the needs of the teachers and the needs of the families were being met. Because we opened up and communicated more it allowed the parents to do the same. In the book, Possible Schools: The Reggio Approach to Urban Education the author speaks to the same effect, “When . . . asked about families . . . families surprised us every day with things they would never have done before . . . She explained that our increased communication with families showed them we respected them and their children. And they were proud, not only of their children but of the school” (Lewin-Benham, 2006, p. 145).
As a leader, I feel that I gained a lot of confidence in knowing that I held an expertise viewpoint based on knowledge acquired from classes such as Social Supportive Learning and Contextual Curriculum, but additionally I felt confident as a leader in being able to delegate to parents and share the information that I possessed. I felt that I could be a reliable resource for them. Going forward, I can’t imagine returning to a state where I feel as if I am not an expert in my field, imposter syndrome is completely gone. Going backwards is not an option, and not including families in this extremely important time in their child’s lives isn’t an option. Together we foster the children’s sense of self, we are their community.
With this, I developed tremendously in another area: courage. The Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program Professional Qualities describes the quality of courage as, “your capacity for taking risks and challenging the status quo. You will be courageous to go against the grain and to not always do things because they are popular or because they have always been done a particular way. You will be willing to try things out (with both children and adults), to take risks and be audacious – not just any education is enough.”
In the midst of COVID-19 we had another huge moment in history: the dramatic rise of Black Lives Matter, a revolution that has been coming for centuries. With three white women as teachers and a class of all white children the questions arose: Do we approach this topic with the children? If so, what would be a developmentally appropriate manner? How will the families react with us opening this conversation?
The phrase “against the grain” kept repeating itself in my mind. By ignoring the systemic racism or simply not acknowledging what is going on outside of our school is denying the children their right to be part of the community. It is also suppressing those who are oppressed and not being an advocate for change.
We must discuss this topic, but how? I went to a Black Lives Matter protest on a Sunday and came to school the next day to open the discussion. I showed them pictures, explained why we were coming together to protest. I answered any questions that I could and was honest when I did not have an answer. We did have one instance that I felt nervous in addressing: a child in my class heard a police siren and became frightened because his parents told him that the police were killing people. What do we do? My mentor teacher felt that we need police officers to help us when we get into trouble, I felt that they weren’t being helpful and the child had every right to fear them. Do we continue to teach that police officers are community helpers or do we discourage the image that they have traditionally held in our minds?
We made the decision to teach against the grain, which was quoted beautifully by Cochran-Smith, “Teachers need to know from the start that they are a part of a larger struggle and that they have a responsibility to reform, not just replicate, standard school practices . . . Teaching against the grain stems from, but also generates, critical perspectives on the macro-level relationships of power, labor, and ideology” (Zeichner, Bowman, Guillen, & Napolitan, 2016, p. 281).
To honor the children’s inquisitive nature of the world around them as well as collaborate with the families to form a cohesive community, we chose the courageous route – not the one of ignoring or of ignorance, but one of reality. Previously, we had done a deep dive into the wonderings on morality, courageously, and honestly, we talked and learned together again.
In order to continue to honor the children and their right to be a citizen of the world I feel that I will continue to engage them in these types of conversations and listen as they form their own opinions. In addition, I believe having a growth mindset as well as being open-minded I will be able to collaborate with future co-teachers despite us having different opinions.
As much as I have grown throughout the past year, I have found myself feeling limited in two capacities.
One being finding difficulties breaking the barrier and engaging with parents. Communication and collaboration is a space where I feel that I fall short, especially written communication.
Something that I believe has inhibited this growth to bloom fully is the families in our class engage with my mentor teacher more comfortably. I believe that as I continue on with our current students next year, and my mentor teacher moves onto her next opportunity, a natural progression will happen where the families will feel more comfortable communicating with me. I also believe that I held this belief that families were intimidating. However, one of the positive outcomes from COVID-19 has been the breakdown of that barrier. I also believe that practice in communicating will naturally help this as well. When my role shifts from resident teacher to mentor teacher I will take on a new set of responsibilities, including communication. Reading about effective communication strategies will also be of big assistance.
One other space where I feel there is room to grow is in literacy of technology. Children have the right to engage with the world around them, which includes technology. During COVID-19 our entire curriculum became virtual. Once we were able to return to in classroom learning I held a disdain for technology while the children now craved it – they incorporated it into their play making computers out of folded pieces of paper and having Zoom calls with one another through them and using dominoes as cell phones and calling each other from across the classroom. Technology became their norm. I was burned out from technology overload from trying to stay connected during the pandemic. However, is that fair to the children?
I would like to incorporate technology into our contextual curriculum and I believe that to do so I need to become more aware of what is available other than a computer. Collaborating with other teachers to learn what they are using in their classrooms as well as speaking to those who are outside of the classroom setting such as Alex Morgan or Jacie Engel and find out what they would advise could give our children more of an opportunity to engage with technology.
The Maymester course Messing Around with STEM brought to light different views on the importance of technology. “The kind of knowledge children most need is the knowledge that will help them get more knowledge . . . Instruction in programming the computer and thinking about how to develop a complex project was like teaching her to catch fish. With these skills she could build her software and transform her thinking about fractions.” (Papert, 2000, pp. 139-140). Technology can be incorporated into authentic learning, and learning what different types of technology are available is a good first step. Also, revisiting older technology such as simple machines or light tables would enhance the classroom environment.
Despite all of the challenges this year has thrown our way with a global pandemic and a revolution rightfully taking place, we as a cohort have maintained a growth mindset. We are resilient beyond all measures and for that we will be graduating with our masters degree and a new appreciation for our rising generation. May they be as strong and brilliant as this Teacher Education Program has made us.
Lewin-Benham, A. (2006). Our Families, Other Educators. In Possible schools: The Reggio Approach to Urban Education (pp. 130-147). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Papert, S. (2000). The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. New York, NY: BasicBooks.
Zeichner, K., Bowman, M., Guillen, L., & Napolitan, K. (2016). Engaging and Working in Solidarity With Local Communities in Preparing the Teachers of Their Children. Journal of Teacher Education,67(4), 277-290. doi:10.1177/0022487116660623
Reflections from the Teacher Education Program, October 2019
Jen Selbitschka, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program Director
We are excited to launch a full catalog of new courses this year. One of these courses is EDHD 6400: Observation, Documentation, and Assessment.
While this course has many objectives, there are two that drive the core of the work. The first is to hone in on the experience of documenting to bring awareness and attention to the decisions made when in the moment with children. This awareness and attention supports Resident Teachers in becoming more intuitive documenters, increasing their chances of gathering artifacts that have potential for unpacking meaning and giving visibility to children’s thinking and learning processes.
Some questions the Resident Teachers consider to develop this awareness and attention include:
Is what you want to document best captured through photographs, notes, videos, and/or sketches?
When do you choose to take a photograph and why?
When do you choose to take notes and why?
When do you choose to take videos as opposed to photographs, and vice versa, and why?
When you are taking video, what causes you to choose to keep the camera focused on a particular situation for a particular duration of time, and when do you choose to change the focus to something else in the experience and then back again?
When do you zoom the camera in and zoom the camera out and why?
How do you find yourself participating through documenting?
The second guiding purpose of the course is to develop competencies in extracting meaning and understanding from documented artifacts. This unpacking generates multiple hypotheses and interpretations about the experience to inform understandings and decisions about next steps in the teaching process.
One challenge of the course is to break down culturally-influenced connotations that impact how we interpret the concepts of observation, documentation, and assessment. This process of breaking down has involved a great deal of “unlearning” through ongoing reflection and critical examination of the Resident Teachers’ direct experiences. Inspired by readings from Reggio Emilia, Italy and other inspired educators, we seek to embrace this experience of observation, documentation, and assessment as an effort to understand and a process of coming to know.
Here are a few reflections from Resident Teachers on the class so far:
Through the three rounds of observation and documentation, I learned a lot about myself because I needed to be vulnerable during the experiences and during the reflection after. I think this learning happened because I was forced to think about how I was feeling/what I was doing during the observations, which helped me learn about myself and how reflecting on the experiences was important for my learning in the classroom with the children.
There really is no end point or answer to observing and gaining insights. It is a continuous process and it’s okay to not get what you wanted or were hoping for, as the process is equally/more important.
I have begun learning to accept my subjectivity and involvement in what I engage in observation and documentation.
Observing and documenting is more than just a blurb on the wall next to an art project. I never knew that through documentation I could show how I am forming a relationship with a child.
Now I am learning that documenting and observing is ongoing, never conclusive, and assumptions are just that… they are not conclusions.
I think I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned to lean into the hard feelings and ask, why am I feeling this way? We analyze the children’s feelings and we analyze our feelings too! It’s a way to learn and to grow.
We would love to have your voice in conversations like these.
Sandra O’Donnell, a graduate student from the 2018-2019 BJS TEP cohort shared the following reflections.
Simply being immersed in the city of Reggio Emilia was a transformative experience. Having the opportunity to tour preschool and infant/toddler centers was certainly a highlight! I gained a clearer understanding of progettazione and how projects can be revisited and shared amongst other classrooms. I remember one classroom beautifully displayed documentation offering pages of photos and text along with the children’s clay sculptures. The teacher explained to me how the children were investigating movement and the physical body. They initially expressed their ideas and discoveries in small groups, engaging in different movement experiences and further represented their thinking through clay and paper materials. The documentation represents months of exploration, which continues to evolve. This served as a reminder that children can construct deeper understanding and meaning in their work when offered ample time to explore with several different materials.
Sonny Apodaca, another member of the 2018 – 2019 cohort shared these reflections.
Visiting Reggio Emilia, Italy was an incredibly invigorating experience. I felt inspired and excited the entire time I was there. The schools are each unique with their own defined identity and significant history that have helped shape it throughout the years. The schools are amazing! I left each one feeling more and more motivated with my head full of amazing classroom set-ups, provocations, and documentation styles. I am eager to bring many of these ideas into my own classrooms.
The teachers of Reggio Emilia, Italy were as inspiring as the classrooms and schools they have helped create. Every single person who steps foot into a Reggio Emilia school breathes life into it and every person is seen as equally important to the way the school lives and thrives in its community.
The teachers truly value the learning of children and see children as true protagonists in their own learning and discovery. Annalisa Rabotti, a teacher at the Nidi School, said that teachers must always listen deeper to what children are saying and doing. She said we need, “a listening that goes deeper, that hears children’s’ questions and builds new questions; that builds new elements of research. A kind of listening which is courageous, that dares, a daring kind of listening that isn’t afraid of change; a kind of listening which is capable of doing somersaults with our thoughts.”
Through my observations of the teachers and the schools in Reggio Emilia, they truly do exemplify and live this kind of thinking.
Along with this kind of thinking comes a deep value and significance placed on interdependence. Starting in the infant-toddler centers of Reggio Emilia, children learn and understand the value of relying on another person, as well as the value of being relied on and being viewed as a valuable resource for information or guidance. While observing the children of the Reggio Emilia preschools it is clear to see the confidence, joy, and autonomy they have in their own learning.
Teachers have deliberately decided not to problem solve for children and instead continually ask children to be brave and try on their own; the children do try and they try alongside their peers. They take risks in their learning, with the knowledge that if and when they do need help or direction, there is a teacher ready to learn and discover alongside them.
It seems to me that our culture and society often values independence over interdependence and this is often cultivated in schools by choosing to have children each complete individual school projects or tests, and children often have to sit in their own individual desks.
What stood out to me as being significant while in Reggio Emilia is that, through the cultivation of interdependence, children appeared to develop more independence and have more confidence in their abilities to accomplish their work. Through their reliance on their peers, teachers, and materials, the children were able to create deeper understandings and develop more confidence in their own significant capabilities.
To read more about the Study Group to Reggio Emilia, click here.
In the Spring semester, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) graduate students enroll in ECED 5104: Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum (ADAC). Throughout the semester, the graduate students engage in curriculum development through action research in order to better understand learning and teaching, documentation as a form of assessment, and partnering with students around the development of a contextually meaningful curriculum. Through this process, they also encounter opportunities to make an impact beyond their classroom walls.
Join Kayla Chung, 2017-2018 BJSTEP graduate student for an exploration related to her work in the ADAC course.
My practicum experience this year is in the older infant classroom working with children ages 9-16 months. In the ADAC course, I am actively learning how a contextually-emergent curriculum is developed in close collaboration with the children, my co-teachers, my instructors, and my colleagues. The primary means of creating a contextually-emergent curriculum in the infant room is through an Action Research Project. The question I have chosen to research is:
How do relationships support the development of empathy in infant-aged children?
Within this question, there have been two sub-questions that have helped guide my thinking in the classroom with the children:
How do objects/materials support the development of empathy with the infants?
How do relationships within the classroom, the school, the families, and the community support the development of empathy with infants?
Before I could begin my work of implementing experiences, observing, documenting and analyzing documentation, and planning for more experiences, it was necessary for me to understand how empathy is defined and expressed by citizens of the relationship groups I was researching. I sought to understand the perspectives from the children, my co-teachers and colleagues, the families, and the community surrounding these individuals.
“Listening means being open to differences, recognizing the value of another’s point of view and interpretation. Thus, listening becomes not only a pedagogical strategy but also a way of thinking and looking at others.”
-Carlina Rinaldi, President, Foundation Reggio Children – Loris Malaguzzi Center
The Families’ perspectives:
I asked the families of our classroom to share their meanings of empathy and how they have seen empathy expressed by their children. I appreciate their ideas, as they have opened my eyes to the special and unique identities that are represented by each family unit. It was important for me to display their responses in the classroom to have these identities felt and known. I also felt that unity was important to represent in our classroom, and highlighted some of the common attributes that were present in all of the responses – Empathy is:
Reflection Understanding See & Feel Care Connect
Each infant joined the classroom with their individual history of experiences and ways of understanding the world, especially within the social realm of relationships. In understanding how the families in our classroom see and experience empathy, I am better equipped to understand how their perceptions have shaped their children’s ideas and actions related to empathy. Just as each infant is learning and being shaped by their experiences with the many relationships they have now, they are gaining the necessary foundation for who they will become later.
I hope that you will continue down this journey with me, and I look forward to sharing more with you about the discoveries I am making with the children, families, co-teachers/colleagues, and the global community.
Please feel free to reach out through the comments section below this post, as well as sharing your own definitions and ways you’ve seen empathy expressed!
“We do not need to focus solely on the actual succession of facts, but rather to pursue by way of the story, a possible understanding of the intricate adventure of human learning.” – Sergio Spaggiari, Shoe and Meter, Reggio Children
During the Spring semester, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) graduate students enroll in ECED 5104: Advanced Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum (ADAC). Through the semester, the graduate students engage in curriculum development through action research in order to better understand learning and teaching, documentation as a form of assessment, and partnering with students around the development of a contextually meaningful curriculum. Through this process, they also encounter opportunities for creating impact beyond their classroom walls.
The Course Objectives are as follows:
Understand how to use a continuous cycle of observation, documentation, interpretation, and provocation to create contextually, meaningful curriculum.
Understand how to use documentation as a form of assessment with children and self assessment of your teaching practice.
Synthesize key elements from experiences with children that can be shared with colleagues for further reflection, feedback, and generation of possibilities around new experiences.
Synthesize key elements from experiences with children that can serve as a form of advocacy for a strong image of children and early childhood education.
Identify key elements from your observations of children that can be used to propel learning within an emergent, contextualized curriculum.
Identify and act on opportunities to partner with families in meaningful ways around their participation in the curriculum.
Identify and act on opportunities to partner with community members and resources in meaningful ways around their participation in the curriculum.
The bulk of the course engages the graduate students in a continuous Cycle of Inquiry guided by the following framework:
(What) Design and implement experiences that invite students to encounter and explore aspects of a Focus of Research driven by research questions.
(What)Observe and document these experiences, including preparations for the experiences, using a variety of tools, such as photographs, video, notes, transcribed conversations, charts, graphs and/or samples of work.
(So What) Analyze documentation from these experiences and generate multiple interpretations and perspectives from these analyses as well as assessments about what students know and understand surrounding research-related material.
(So What) Seek more knowledge through a variety of resources including current literature, research, interviews and/or TED Talks, etc. and make connections between what is observed and what is learned through these resourcesto enhance understandings and inform research questions.
(So What) Synthesize and organize work from each week into a visual format to share with colleagues in class.
(Now What) Thoughtfully engage colleagues in conversation around work and receive feedback surrounding the experiences offered as well as possibilities for where to go next.
(What) Based on feedback and ideas generated in class and with instructors, design and implement an experience that invites students to encounter and explore aspects of the Focus of Research driven by research questions. Repeat steps 2-7.
Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?
I stepped out of the BJS TEP into an Assistant Director position at a nonprofit preschool in Boulder. There I helped foster a partnership with Boulder Journey School to become a practicum placement site. A year later I joined the CSU Early Childhood Center’s Administrative team to begin the next chapter in my life, working with adults and children in a Reggio-inspired laboratory school.
How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?
I moved from St. Louis, Missouri to Boulder in 2013, after being accepted to the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program. I had a long history of experience in St. Louis, working in a constructivist environment with other educators inspired by the work coming out of Reggio Emilia, Italy. For me, the BJS TEP demonstrated a great balance of theory and practice, and how to marry the two. I continually use the thinking I built around this marriage when working with the CSU intern students who teach at the Early Childhood Center.
What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?
Besides the trip to Reggio?! One of my fondest memories is working with BJS Technology Specialist Sam and one of my co-teachers Leslie to explore what technological tools could foster sound exploration with toddlers. We experimented with the Makey Makey tool and spent a couple of afternoons playing with the different possibilities. We played with how to offer these materials in developmentally appropriate and creative ways to children. Based on this exploration, we ultimately installed large panels of foil on the wall in the classroom, and attached metal spoons to serve as conductors between the foil and the Makey Makey tool on the laptop. It was a learning experience for us all and a true test of the importance of “messing about” as adults.
What brings you joy in your current professional position?
It’s pretty much a dream job! I really love that the ECC serves as a learning lab for adults and children. The reciprocal learning between the two cannot be ignored, and I get a lot of joy in supporting that process. The ECC is relatively new to the Reggio approach, so it’s energizing to study and reflect alongside the teachers and other administrators on what that means in our unique context. I also love working with the undergraduates in my “Creative Experiences with Children” course. Each semester I get the opportunity to facilitate thinking and questioning on the topics of teaching, learning, creativity, and the rights of children.
What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?
In Saint Louis I was able to do some educational coaching/consulting at a United Way school in a pretty vulnerable area of the city. Working in collaboration with other colleagues and the teachers at that school, we were able to study the fundamentals of the Reggio philosophy together and embed some practices and ways of being into the classrooms. It was powerful to see the changes happen and the strong sense of self-efficacy develop within the teachers who previously had a much different view of what they and the children could do.
I’m very proud of bringing the ideas around professional learning communities to the last two school systems in which I worked. At my previous school, as well as here at the ECC, there has been tremendous growth in teachers’ practice. These experiences fostered new energy around classroom practice that came directly out of the research that teachers and administrators undertook together.
Successfully teaching and several semesters of an undergraduate class at CSU is a big, and unexpected, accomplishment. I hadn’t considered working in higher education before this role, and it was a big undertaking, but I’m super proud of how things are going!
In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?
That’s a tough one. I feel compelled by many things at the moment! I think if I had to narrow it down it would be promoting the work of the teachers and children at the ECC and making it more visible in the community (Fort Collins and beyond). Through this work, we are advocating for the rights of children by engaging in conversation with others about their view of children and childhood.
We are taking more steps to do so in a variety of ways. We continue to partner with more departments at CSU, which brings different professionals and students majoring in things other than education into our spaces. I also like inviting ECC teachers to be guest lecturers at my Creative Experiences class, so students hear perspectives and realities other than mine about the value of a constructivist environment. We have started hanging documentation of children’s experiences on campus and in businesses around town too. This is something I would like to develop more momentum around. I’ve been talking with Sam Hall as well, and it looks like we have an opportunity to screen the Voices of Children Documentary at the school!
More internally, I think we are taking great leaps in making visible to our families the learning long term investigations with children offer. For example, this fall semester our older toddler children and teachers embarked on a journey, focusing on children’s photography and perspective taking. They collaborated with families, documented children’s photography preferences, invited the toddlers to document their peers’ experiences, and are curating a gallery open to the entire ECC community in one of our school’s common spaces.
On a larger scale, several teachers have published articles, sharing stories from their classroom, and I hope with the publication of our manuscript in Innovations, the amazing work coming out of the ECC will be even more visible. Eventually, I’d like the ECC to host the Hawkins Centers of Learning Exhibit, Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child, and develop professional development opportunities for other educators.