What are early childhood educators’ roles in supporting learning in the classroom? Traditional education supports models where the teacher provides information for students to learn. The relationship between student and teacher is hierarchical with the teacher holding the knowledge and the students acquiring what was shared. Traditional models of education self-replicate since they are the foundation of majority of adults’ childhood experiences with school. It is much easier to replicate what we know that move into unchartered territory.
Thinking differently about the relationship between children and adults require new skills. First, we must examine our assumptions about children’s capabilities. If we truly believe that young children are capable, then we must shift our own work in the classroom. We are no longer teachers imparting knowledge on children, rather adopt the stance of educators and co-learners.
To shift the role of children and adults to co-learners transform the classroom. When we change our own internal focus from teachers to educators and co-learners, we acknowledge young children’s rights to drive their own learning and our own role to scaffold their experiences.
Inquiry based practices transform classroom relationships. Rather that teacher leadership in the classroom, the practice in the classroom becomes one of co-learner. Co-learning is much like a waltz between the educator and the child or small group of children. The dance of dialogue, exploration, and reflection is engaged in together---child and educator alike exploring the potential of possibilities. Carla Rinaldi, President of Reggio Children and lifelong researcher-participant in the municipal schools of Reggio Emilia shared,
The teachers…discuss fully all the possible ways that the project could be anticipated to evolve, considering the likely ideas, hypotheses, and choices of children and the directions they may take.
In this way early childhood educators scaffold the experiences of children as co-learners. We bring our thinking to the experience, constantly reflecting on where the children might go next. We remain open to surprise and revel in the wonder that occurs when the children and educators trust each other to be open to possibility.