28 Chapter 2
This book challenges you to develop an active, conscious approach to
reflecting on and interpreting your observations of children. The task at
hand is to keep alert and self-reflective when looking at your own reactions
to events and situations. Try to uncover the possible influences on your per-
ceptions. Remind yourself that others are likely to have different, yet valid,
points of view. Once you understand that you bring a set of mental filters to
any observation, you can use this awareness to examine what you are seeing
more carefully. The habit of immediately interpreting what you see limits your
vision. You forget that what you are seeing is your own point of view, rather
than something outside of yourself. Changing this habit takes ongoing prac-
tice and self-reflection, because it is so easy to stay in your own comfort zone.
Another compelling reason to slow down and observe more conscien-
tiously is to make sure you are seeing children in the most competent light
possible. The larger educational and political discourse in the United States
emphasizes getting children ready for school and remediating their deficits.
This limited view of children seeps into our language and practices with chil-
dren. As the educators of Reggio Emilia remind us, our image of the child
affects everything we do. In turn, that limits or enhances the child’s potential.
When we see children as needy or lacking in some quality or skill, we may
limit what we offer them, or we may stop them from pursuing valuable experi-
ences. Using detailed observations that reflect children’s competence helps
teachers respond to them in ways that call forth their potential.
The following activities are designed to help you practice seeing with more
intentionality. As you participate, try to let go of your preconceptions, which
cloud what you see. Don’t think about writing or using the observations in
any way. Strip away all of the noise inside your head about a right way to do
this. Allow yourself to be in the moment for what you can learn.
Practice Noticing Descriptions and Interpretations
One of the most difficult aspects of learning to observe is recognizing the dif-
ference between descriptions and interpretations. Use this activity to help you
develop your skills in separating descriptive data from interpretation.
Look at the following photos on your own, in a small group, or with a
partner. Record all of your responses to the question: What do you see in the
photos? Be as specific as possible.