By Elizabeth Wroten
Redux: Parenting Crossover
On 14, Jan 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I wouldn’t normally discuss parenting on this blog, but bear with me for a minute. With preschool programs for my daughter on my mind, I’ve been researching various educational and developmental philosophies, theories, approaches, ideas, etc. I’ve been really drawn to the Reggio-Emilia approach and the Montessori method. I like how autonomous the classrooms and teacher-student relationships are and how the students dictate what they want and are ready to learn. The Reggio-Emilia approach even goes so far as to not have a set curriculum, but instead allows the students to determine the topics of study and how they will be studied and experienced. I can even see shades of the unschooling method I’ve read about. The thing is, I always thought of this research and information as something seperate from my professional life. But I had a sudden insight the other day while reading an article in YALSA’s fall publication of Young Adult Library Services about teen spaces.
I suddenly saw a connection between these educational opportunities that I want so much for my daughter and the educational practices I should be relying on in the library. The Reggio Emilia approach accepts students as competent individuals who work with teachers to co-construct knowledge.
Teens, children, and adults these days are as much creators of information as they are consumers of it. True, not everything produced is great; we all have our moments. But, I think this idea is more of a mindset, especially for teens. They really see themselves as capable creators and we should too.
If librarians want to discuss how we are no longer the gate keepers to stores of information, we need to accept our role as tour guides. If we want to be the guide on the side, we can no longer be the sage on the stage. (Just to throw those familiar cliches out there.) We should be co-constructing knowledge and information with our students, not giving it to them as if we know and they don’t and as if there is some specific set of skills they need and we have. This is social media and the Internet. Things are changing all the time and a more flexible attitude and generalized skill set will serve our youth better than a checklist of skills and pieces of information they must have. That isn’t to say we aren’t experts and they are or that they need to learn nothing and everything. It just means we need to collaborate with them and see them as much more savvy and capable than we do and allow them to help us help them learn.
This may not be such a profound leap for everyone and I suppose in a lot of ways I was coming to these conclusions regardless of my reading, but the crossover from my research as a parent caught me off guard and inspired me. I would encourage anyone interested in that style of teaching to look into the Reggio Emilia approach. It isn’t meant for libraries and is usually used with early childhood education, but I still think many of the guiding principles are very applicable to the world today and to how libraries can teach.