Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Reggio-Inspired Spotlight: Connie Lowe

We are hoping to feature a series of blog posts highlighting some local Reggio-Inspired Educators. This series will give you a window into classrooms and help us to get to know each other as educators.

My name is Connie Lowe. I have been teaching full day kindergarten in St. James School Division for the past 7 years. I have been part of the Manitoba RICE committee for the past year and have been particularly focused on establishing an online presence for our group so that we can learn from each other. I'm excited to share a little bit of my journey with you.

Visiting Reggio Emilia in 2015
MB RICE: How and when did you become interested in RE?

Connie: About five years ago I had a student teacher in my classroom who asked me about my teaching philosophy and if I followed the Reggio Emilia approach. Embarrassed that I had no idea what she was talking about, I answered, "Oh yes, I've heard of her." Not liking being out of the loop, I went home that night and started doing research. I was totally engrossed in what I was seeing. I started looking for local professional development opportunities and eventually travelled to a conference in Ontario to learn more. I started shifting my thinking and the way I was teaching.

My classroom before learning about Reggio Emilia
I soon realized that my classroom no longer accommodated my teaching style and applied for a grant to make some changes. With $500 and a lot of garage sale, DIY, donations, and Kijiji finds, I was able to completely transform my space. 

Map where we can add our connections to other students around the world.

Open-ended visual schedule

Furniture my dad and I made for our cozy reading nook.
The bottles on the wall store liquid water colours made from dried up markers.
Tables are set with "Discovery Bins"

MBRICE: What are your favourite aspects of the philosophy? 

Connie: The 100 Languages Poem speaks to my heart. I often feel like schools only accept certain ways of showing learning and children really do learn in so many different and unique ways.
I also love how Reggio Philosophy supports the belief that children are fully capable and come to use with knowledge and experiences. 
Incorporating nature into learning is my most recent love. It started with adding natural elements to my classroom and has evolved into a passion for outdoor education. This year my students and I will be participating in the Two Weeks Outdoors Challenge and hopefully adding monthly visits to the forest next year. 

MBRICE: What books/resources would you recommend?

Connie: The Hundred Languages of Children book by Edwards, Gandini, and Forman is such an invaluable resource. It's the one resource I keep going back to over and over again. 

MBRICE: What do you find challenging?

The blog where we share our learning.

Connie: Documentation! I keep reading about it and I understand the importance but I find it so challenging to be able to document and scribe the learning with a busy classroom of 24 students. I mainly rely on photos, using the Notability App, and sharing through our classroom blog but I want to get better at displaying documentation that is useful to students and visible to parents.

MBRICE: How has your teaching changed since you began learning about RE?

Connie: When I first started teaching I took over for a retired teacher. I felt like I had to fill her shoes and was left with bins filled with all of the monthly theme activities. I filled in calendars at the beginning of the month detailing exactly what I would do each day. There was no room for the students interests in my planning.
Now I am much more observant, I ask more questions, listen more, and speak less. I try to use more of an inquiry approach. I feel like I should confess, I do not consider myself a "Reggio Inspired Teacher." While I absolutely love so many things about the Reggio approach, I am also inspired by Waldorf, Forest Schools, and Inquiry-Based learning. I feel like I am always learning and growing in my practice and can't commit to a single model. 

I am thankful for this opportunity to reflect on my philosophy and my own learning. I am always happy to connect with other educators. You can find me @joyofrunning or @mrslowesclass on Twitter.

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