Accountability vs. Trust

In the Reggio Emilia world of education there is an organic sense of trust of the students, teachers and families that is both shared and intentionally cared for.  It is with the trust, this belief in competence and capability that underlies the incredible worlds of the Reggio Emilia schools.

Among other things, this sense of trust leads to great depth of learning, unimaginable stamina when working with projects, introduction of materials (mostly repurposed) and an autonomy and sense of independence that is admirable to say the least.  While visiting the schools today there were several times when children were in spaces where there was no teacher in sight.  When asking about this later it came back to the sense of autonomy and independence that is fostered from birth in both the Infant/Toddler Centers and the Pre-School Centers.  The children do know that teachers are close by, but they are given the space, the chance to explore the field or another school space without question.

The teachers in RE are constantly observing and planning their next steps with the students – it is formative assessment with purposeful intentions at its purist.  The notion of the assessments that we do (amount and kind) are not mentioned here.  In debriefing this with others, one fellow study tour participant noted, “it’s because they trust that they don’t have the accountability that we do.  We aren’t trusted.”  How true.

Beyond the assessment implications, and the autonomy that is promoted, the trust allows for a variety of materials in the classroom that we would not normally think of as appropriate for 0-6 years olds.  We wouldn’t “trust” that they wouldn’t get hurt or that they wouldn’t eat them or that that wouldn’t break them.  And yet, these materials are respected, revered and inspire amazing inquiry projects and conversation.  Some materials include: natural treasures (sticks, stones, pebbles), textiles (fabrics, tiles, clay), glass paint jars, melted plastic bottles, large tree stumps and so much more.   There are so many repurposed items in the space that are added to allow for color investigations, building investigations, sound and movement inquiries.   There is a trust that these are items of beauty and that they are to be used to create – and they are.  And because these young children don’t see them just as glass tiles or water bottles or cardboard tubes, they are readily able to use them for anything – teaching the adults what the true possibilities are.

This trust allows for space.  Space to wonder. Space to learn. Space to observe.

And with that space, comes brilliance.

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