Empathy, Play, Reggio Inspired

“I Am Who We Are”

Today I listened to a Webinar with Rick Ellis, Bank Street College and EC Consultant on Reggio Inspired teaching and leading. There were a lot of snippets that stood out to me and below I have shared my notes from this viewing. One of the biggest stand-outs was the idea of belonging and identity.

Ideas - 52

Often people will say, “I am who I am”. We tend to think in a self-centered way. We focus on our own achievements and our own improvements and where these gains will elevate us to.

Ellis suggests that a reggio-inspired environment challenges us to shift our thinking to a more collaborative, community approach: “I am who we are.”  I am still an individual with my own needs and goals but I am part of a group, a community of learners. What I do reflects on all of us. It also elevates all of us. It moves all of us forward. It lifts us.

How do we ensure we are doing both: celebrating the individual and growing as a community? I think that question is actually pretty easy to answer but possibly much harder to implement. We need to value each other and we show we are interested in what each person brings to our community. We need to listen to each other. We need to make sure we are nurturing learners who realize they do not exist in isolation.  As I have said before, we start with empathy and move forward from there.

More than kindness, more than thinking of others, empathy is, as far as I can tell, the best way to ensure we build a culture of thinking amongst students that is solution oriented, inclusive, and will engage them in meaningful inquiries on their path to greater learning. And the more I think about it, I Am Who We Are would be a great central idea for a whole school unit of inquiry. What better way to show you value the concepts of self and community than by dedicating the first unit of the year to delving into this concept?

How do you build empathy in your school, develop a sense of self, and grow as a community? 

Have you taken on a whole-school inquiry and can share any insights?


7 thoughts on ““I Am Who We Are””

  1. We then watched a video documenting the inclusion of Peter, a boy with down syndrome, into a G4 class. One of his classmates summed up the experience by saying two very powerful statements:
    1. Peter changed his behaviour when we changed our minds about him.
    2. We thought we were teaching Peter how to act, but he was really teaching us how to think and solve problems.

    And, as we continued our discussion about how we saw the class community taking responsibility for each other, I was reminded of a quote that Alex Papp shared with me last week while I was visiting his school in Ghana. It is: “I propose to consider learning not as a socially shared cognition that results in the end in the internalisation of knowledge by individuals, but as a process of becoming a member of a sustained community.” – Jean Lave

    I am who we are. A sustained community.

    1. I have only two words: Don’t. Leave.


      Also, can I get the link to the other webinar? I should have stayed for that one! Love the idea of a sustained community. Nourishing. More great food for thought. Thank you!

  2. Hi Sonia,

    Thank you for your continued commitment to education and for inspiring teachers like me through your blog, to continue to be the best we can be!

    If at all possible I’d love to watch the recorded version of the webinar you watched on the Reggio Emilia approach. I presently work at LIS as an Early Years teacher and we have a Reggio inspired preschool. I have attended Reggio myself but I’m always looking for the latest professional learning on the approach so your help will be much appreciated!

    Kind regards,

    Catarina Peterson
    Early Learning Centre Teacher
    Luanda International School

    ‘Trust and empowerment strengthen inquiry and build community.’ – Trevor Mackenzie

    1. Hi Cat,
      Thanks for your kind words. I love seeing what you are doing in Luanda via Twitter – especially now my friend Gillian is working in Luanda! Looks amazing. I will find out tomorrow at work how you can access the webinar and let you know more details. I aspire to visit Reggio in person. My first experience with the Reggio approach was via Junko Cancemi in Yokohama and I was blown away by it. So empowering and such a great way to work with children. That my current school has a reggio approach in the Early Years was a massive drawcard for my coming here. I’ll be in touch re: how to access the webinar!

  3. Hi Sonya,
    Loved the idea of taking an initiative towards a collaborative ,community approach.Our students have chosen the TD theme who we are for this year’s PYP exhibition and this is definitely going to help.I would definitely love to hear from you.

    1. I love PYPX and having your students involved in the entire process is so important. I would love to learn more about schools who have done a unit of inquiry across the whole school. To me, that seems really powerful.

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