102nd birthday anniversary of Loris Malaguzzi
Heather Conroy, REAIE Committee Member
That the rights of children should be the rights of other children is the value dimension of a more complete humanity.
Wednesday 23rd February 2022, marks the 102nd birthday anniversary of Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Municipal infant toddler centres and preschools of Reggio Emilia. In 2020, representatives of REAIE, which is an invited member of the Reggio Children International Network, joined colleagues from Networks throughout the world to celebrate, Malaguzzi’s 100th birthday anniversary. We could not anticipate that within days, we would experience, as a result of the pandemic, changes that continue to impact our lives across our world.
Those last days in Reggio Emilia, prior to encountering experiences now so familiar to us, (quarantine, self- isolation, mask wearing, lockdown) did indeed have a dreamlike quality to them. Together, with colleagues in Reggio Emilia, we reflected on the profound influence of Malaguzzi’s inspired vision – for a quality educational experience – as a right of all children. Those who worked directly with Malaguzzi speak of still hearing his voice, urging them on towards this goal, encouraging them to look again, to see new perspectives, to persist with challenges and to invite complexity.
When considering, an acknowledgement of Malaguzzi’s anniversary as a means of honouring his commitment to children and their rights, to research, innovation and quality education, I felt I could not do justice to the task as a sole voice. My own journey to build understanding of the educational project of Reggio Emilia began many years ago – however I never cease to feel the relevance of his writing within our current day experience. Indeed Claudia Giudici, immediate past President of Reggio Children, spoke to REAIE members last year, of proceeding with courage to set new directions and to welcome complexity, as the Municipal school system courageously responded to the impact of the pandemic. Reggio Children’s adaptation to an online platform when face to face study groups and professional learning could not take place, typifies the potential of transformation as a generative force to ensure relevance within changing times.
Malaguzzi’s proposed collaboration as a value, inviting the sharing of multiple perspectives. Through robust dialogue, thinking expands and relationships are further strengthened, as individuals find themselves no longer isolated in their thinking, but part of a strong and cohesive community. To invite participation, invitations were extended to REAIE committee members and colleagues within the Reggio Children International Network, to contribute their voice….
Imagine that we were to meet Malaguzzi in the present time.
What would we say to him?
What would be our message to Malaguzzi as a continuing influence on the thinking, practice, and lives of educators throughout the world?
REAIE is immensely grateful to those who responded to our initial invitation. We believe the emotion present in each of these responses typifies the gratitude of so many who have come to make reference to the educational project of Reggio Emilia.
We would like to share some of the responses received and invite you, as a member of REAIE to share your perspectives.… Imagine that you were to meet Malaguzzi – What would we say to him?
We invite you to share your answers to these questions in the comment box below.
From Junko Cancemi, Japan:
“I’d actually probably find myself not being able to say anything…but here are some of my thoughts that have been built upon and reflected upon, not only by myself, but with and through colleagues, words that do not only belong to me…
We’d like to thank him for the possibility to co-construct stories where each child is heard to sustain and to renew framing narratives for pedagogy, being sensitive to the occasional silences in between sounds of both central and peripheral conversations…
We’d like to thank him for helping us to revisit the world through the eyes of children, their ears, their fingertips, their toes, their mobile mouths…how new knowledge lands on us as teachers, turning us to learners, co-constructors of spaces to grow into understanding that allow us to see that combined lenses add dimensionality and depth to learning and experience, to wonder about the diversity of human communication, experience and interpretation…”
From the Board of Trustees, Reggio Emilia Aotearoa New Zealand REANZ:
“Loris, I hope you do not mind us calling you that, but it is just that you seem like such a close friend to us all, here in Aotearoa, New Zealand, a place so far away from Italy. It is hard to comprehend the huge impact your presence in Reggio Emilia has had on our lives and given us hope for the future of children throughout the world.
One of the impacts has been the friendship that we have nurtured with colleagues in Australia, and in particular the impact of your teachings on the work we have come to value and learn from the schools Across the Tasman. The relationships we have enjoyed with others in Reggio Emilia and around the world through your teachings has taught us that the world is a small place and the impact each of us has on our world to make positive change, is big.
You have changed our perspective on how children learn, their capacity for understanding and creating knowledge. You have changed our understanding of ourselves as teachers, friends and colleagues who know the importance of working with children and teaching in connected ways.
You have helped us to understand the art of humility; to listen to children and discover that they are highly capable and have ‘real feelings of responsibility and solidarity. The head, the heart, the soul, the body. A hundred worlds to invent, a hundred dreams, a hundred joys. You have given us this. Hope for a better world.
We have learnt the positive power of change, reciprocity, relationship that come together in a pedagogy of care and respect.”
Anna Munari, REAIE Committee Member, Australia:
“Thank you for bringing young children to the forefront of society and the importance of their education is of great importance. In following this path, for me, it has been a confirmation that we need to keep defending the rights of the child to play and learn, to further their educational needs and allow space for creativity and joy. With thanks”
Leanne Mits, REAIE Committee Member, Australia:
“In brief, meeting Malaguzzi would be an honour – I would acknowledge and thank Malaguzzi for awakening us to ever important questions such as; What is education for? What education for what child? What is our image of the child, the teacher, families, community and the learning environment? How to ensure relationships between education, children’s rights, democracy, learning and teaching? I would thank Malaguzzi for alerting me to children as protagonists, to my role as co-researcher and co-constructor of knowledge with children; to the importance of not separating the heart and the head and the importance of education being transdisciplinary.”
Kirsty Liljegren, REAIE Committee Member, Australia:
“As I consider the fanciful idea of meeting Malaguzzi in the present time, how would I begin to communicate the depth of gratitude I feel on behalf of myself and others for the ongoing ripple effects of influence his vision for children, for education has had and continues to have around the world? If I were to share one story, it would be how often the infamous phrase and idea, ‘Your image of the child is where teaching begins’ has been such a protagonist for rich and at times challenging conversations that I have been privy to, and have been a catalyst for significant change and ongoing transformation. The ripples continue, and it gives me hope that this vital idea holds such resonance and, in turn, such lasting impact as we strive to make the world a better place for children to learn and flourish. Thank you, Malaguzzi, for gifting us these words, these ideas, these beacons of hope to always keep in mind what is possible.”
Catharine Hydon, REAIE Committee member, Australia:
“I would want to share with him those ways that Australian Pedagogy has evolved over the last 10+ years.
We have often suffered from a cultural cringe of sorts – we are not as good as our colleagues overseas” but I think that is changing – I would want to share with him how we have taken the ideas he shared and made them our own and, in many cases, taken then to new places.”