It is always fascinating to me, after a conference, what lingers in my mind and heart. What will be the thoughts, words and conversations that hold me and keep me wondering in the weeks ahead? What will be the stories I re-tell, re-think and re-consider? What marks will be still there, long after the details of the conference fade away.
For me, reflecting on my visit to Ipswich to attend Reggio Australia’s Biannual Conference, one moment that keeps returning for my reflections, took place in the last moments of a Q&A time with Daniela Lanzi and Anna Orlandini, two educators from Reggio Emilia, Northern Italy. Breaking into my distraction, after a two-hour lecture, was a question that caught my attention,
“But how can we choose what to do with children?”
I hear questions like this regularly as I work alongside teachers who long to find a clear way forward in response to big ideas, teachers longing for answers to practical questions? Knowing the teachers from Reggio Emilia are not inclined to give lessons in ‘How to…’, I was curious to hear how Daniela and Anna would respond.
It was Daniela who replied, “I don’t know. But we must choose… and choosing what to choose is not a neutral choice”.
I wonder if you feel the weight of those words, in the way that I did that day, and still do today as I write. We must choose. And our choices matter. We make choices every day, every moment, and out of these choices, our lives take shape. Each decision informs the next, and influences the stories and lives that play out in front of our eyes. In our choices, lies a deep responsibility to ourselves and to others. We are subjects in our own stories, unable to act without influencing the scripts that play out. What a reality to hold, consider and to embrace in my practice as a teacher, in my life as a mum, in fact, in all my relationships.
And then, almost as if Daniela could sense the impact of her words, the heaviness of their truth, she asked, “How can we share this responsibility? How can the teacher not feel isolated in this choice?” In her questions, Daniela offered hope for a way ahead, a way that recognised our deep need for each other, as we stumble through choices and discover ourselves as individuals and as a community. I wanted to cheer when she graciously shared, “It is important that we do not feel on our own, and that we share the responsibility.”
Daniela’s words in Ipswich took me back, again, to my reading of Freire’s (2005) book, Teachers as Cultural Workers: Letters to those who dare teach. In his words,
“The project of democracy must never be transformed into, or understood as, a singular and individual struggle… teachers should always stick together as they challenge the system, so that their struggle is effective” (p.12).
Humbly, the conference in Ipswich reminded me of my deep passion to be a part of that struggle towards democracy and dialogue – a struggle that can open the possibilities for what it might mean to teach, to live and to love.
[As published by Pademelon Press in an online newsletter.]