Yesterday I was on the Walker Jones Farm with a group of children and teachers. It is quite distance from the school, and of course as soon as we got there, Johnequa (not her real name) needed to use the bathroom. We raced over the field, slowly and carefully crossed the street, then resumed our race to the front door. Laughing and panting, Johnequa showed me a bottle of blue nail polish she had in her pocket as we entered the school. I told her how much I liked the color and asked if I could try it while she was in the bathroom. Johnequa was delighted to see my blue nails, and wanted me to tell her classroom teacher that I got my nails done at “Johnequa’s nail salon.” She asked if we could race again back to the farm.
I felt like I was doing something wrong, having this much fun at school. Other classrooms stared at us whizzing by. Did we break the rules? No, but we broke the cultural norm by laughing together, bonding over nail polish, and running like the wind. When it came time to draw the spinach seedlings, Johnequa gave it her all, adding many tiny roots and details. I think she enjoyed sitting next to me as much as the drawing part, and I too was happy to have shared something special, something of myself, with her (I am a runner).
I don’t mean to imply that we should be “friends” with the children. But I do think that we put up a teacher facade that doesn’t allow us to truly form relationships with children. I don’t believe that we lose control from having these kinds of close connections–in fact, I think we gain more respect. Children know it’s a game, and they can choose to play or not.
From Not Just Anyplace, a video from Reggio…
“So I believe that our work is to stand beside the children, not in front or behind the children but at their side, and to accompany the children on their discoveries about life and their world, to highlight their differences and their subjectivities, trying to give value to their thoughts and their ideas and their theories.” -Antonia Monticelli, teacher at Gianni Rodari Municipal Infant-Toddler Center since 1992