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Creating Community; Re-thinking Classroom Practices

Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.
Peter Drucker

In her important new book, Pursuing Bad Guys: Joining Children’s Quest for Clarity, Courage and Community (part of the Reimagining Our Work collection), Donna King writes about a courageous project that helps transform her early childhood program. Here is part of her story. This section begins as Donna and her co-teacher realized the children’s research about bad guys was becoming a whole-class endeavor:

"Meanwhile, we reorganize our visual display space, which we’ve historically reserved for easel paintings, self-portraits, and photographs of Children First kids playing at the Eno River. Now these spaces reflect the new centrality of Bad Guy Research.

This is a big moment. Children First teachers decided some time ago that we would keep our walls simple, and focus our reflective documentation efforts on extensive individual portfolios. Our culture, our curriculum, and our practices prioritize the individual child, so it made sense for our documentation to do the same. Teachers who focus on the developmental trajectory and ‘life story’ of the individual child don’t create bulletin boards about ‘what we are studying.’ But in this moment, we are a collective of Bad Guy Researchers; we – 12 children, two teachers, one group –truly ARE studying bad guys. Posting documentation about that work is not an empty gesture from some Reggio handbook; it’s an authentic expression of who we really are.

So we post our lists of terms and our research questions about Bad Guys, along with the children’s drawings and stories about Bad Guys, and photographs of Bad Guy play – all to create more accessible points of reference to inform conversation.  In making the Bad Guy Research so visible – so fully public – we claim our emerging identity as Teacher-Researchers. For me and Sarah, there is something bold and unapologetic about making the choice to privilege this new content in our limited display space. And the shift away from featuring samples of individual children’s expression to highlighting our collective work reflects a slow but seismic shift in the Children First culture."

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