I’ve always been the one for a positive attitude, embracing the change and believing that all is possible. My personal vocabulary did not really have any room or tolerance for the NO’s, the IM’s and the UN’s….well until now that is…
I come from a family of educators - my mother, her brothers and my cousins are either teachers or principals. Learning for school and learning for life had always been the subject of our family debates as apparently we do not have a healthy life-work balance mastered and do not understand the concepts of small talk and dinner conversations. With us, it’s always about work, education, learning, and yes…recently also, even more so UNLEARNING.
The concepts of UNLEARNING and UNCURRICULA have been resurfacing in the educational chatter for a while now and they are mostly associated with shedding the convenances, norms and standards that confine our ways of thinking, doing and making things. Kind of like getting out of the box and redesigning it, if you ask me:)
The facts are that just like with the skirts, the purses, the shoes or anything that is cyclical and repetitive in fashion, art or culture UNLEARNING has already had its moment.
The end of XIX and beginning/mid of XX century witnessed the Maria Montessori, Loris Mallaguzzi, Jean Piaget, John Dewey, Jerome Brunner all promoted learning through doing and practical applications of school education. These educators were widely praised and acclaimed, yet their practices and constructivist approach to education did not reach past a limited number of schools (sadly, mostly privately owned). Revolution? Not really….
The world has changed, political and cultural movements have come and gone, yet the classroom centred on the teacher, with children sitting in rows of desks, remained.
If you were to shoot a movie about a school life in Victorian times (XIXth century England) you would have to apply a different colour filter to your camera lens (maybe sepia or black and white) but you would not have to worry about the classroom environment and set up, at all (can someone sense my sarcasm here, I certainly hope so..).
I sat through twelve years of primary and secondary education and 6 years of tertiary/university education in classrooms just like that.
Did I enjoy it?
I’m not a complacent and easily conforming person, so I guess you know the answer...
Luckily for me, I'm a highly curious person, I’m like a dog with a bone some of my not so good friends would say, well, be it…
Back in 2003 when I started my teaching career I quickly understood that unless I blindly follow the model I was exposed to at school - briefly summarized here as SIT and LISTEN with a permutation of SIT, LISTEN, REPEAT (fancy that, …) I’m not going to have much traction in the public schools and other education-based workplaces.
Play it safe, my dad used to say, hmm, I’m clearly NOT MY DAD.
I started researching Reggio Emilia and IB Primary Years Programme only to discover that every child does learn at their own pace, with the use of their specific strengths and talents and clearly doesn't follow the same path and interacts with environment and resources in the way other learners do…so there!
I knew I was onto something, I just wasn’t sure if that something was desirable, in terms of me, actually having a teaching job/career in education, where my values, beliefs and differentiated practices, as well as those of my learners, would truly matter. I wanted to work with schools that, “would not educate children out of creativity” (Thank you for that great observation Sir Ken Robinson) and would actually try to undo/unlearn the damage of standardised education of regular schools and classrooms.
So I turned to Reggio Emilia and Primary Years Programme Framework, have given myself the consent, the freedom and the time to learn to unlearn…have you?