A Note From Noah

Two of our teachers are on their way right now to Auckland, New Zealand, for an early childhood study tour. They arrive in several hours and will land in a country grieving after a tragic terrorist attack in a mosque. We are in touch with conference organizers and will hear from Lizzy (Classroom 4) and Lindsay (Classroom 6) as soon as they touch down. Sarah (Classroom 4) has put together a display in the Common Space (check it out this morning!) to document their travels.

The conference in New Zealand is designed for nursery school teachers to learn about the Te Whāriki early childhood curriculum, a state-sponsored initiative which is

underpinned by a vision for children who are competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.

While we typically send two teachers this time of year to Reggio Emilia, Italy, to learn from educators in the birthplace of Reggio pedagogy, this year we decided to challenge and stretch ourselves. While both Reggio and Te Whāriki embrace a socio-constructivist pedagogy (the idea that knowledge is constructed through social relationships), the educators in New Zealand place an additional emphasis on the “undoing of social, cultural and political inequities in early childhood education and policy.”

The conference was recommended to us by Megan Madison, who we first met at last year’s PA panel on anti-racism and later ran a workshop, “Black Lives Matter in Early Childhood Education,” at our August conference. Megan attended the New Zealand conference in previous years and described it to me as “the best professional development experience I’ve had in 10 years!” She further wrote that the conference helped her dig deep into “the dynamics of settler colonialism.” Another past participant on the conference described that the experience helped her

to begin to understand what it meant to live your values. I came back to my program with new ideas about what is possible for young children and feeling renewed to push forward to co-create a vision for the future alongside my staff.

In a world seemingly tearing apart at the seams, I am so proud of Lizzy and Lindsay, who jumped at the chance to learn more about New Zealand’s critical pedagogy and its social implications. I have always believed that early childhood educators stand at the front lines of social change and possibilities for social justice. Our hope is that Lizzy and Lindsay encounter new ideas and new pedagogies to further inspire our work in the nursery school.

Shabbat shalom,