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Julianne P. Wurm

is the author of a best-selling Working in the Reggio Way: A Beginner's Guide for American Teachers, which is based on the original research she conducted while living in Italy and studying the famous schools of Reggio Emilia. She began her career as a member of Teach for America, teaching in inner-city Houston, East Los Angeles, and the Bronx, New York. She taught for 10 years and served as a teacher coach and school administrator in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to working on more book projects, Julianne collaborates with a number of brands to curate live events and develop engaging experiences. She also presents workshops focused on her research and implementation of the Reggio approach to education, and she consults on education topics. Ms. Wurm holds a bachelors degree in political science from California State University, Chico. She earned her MA in curriculum design and EdM in early childhood education from Teachers College at Columbia University, where she also completed her EdD.




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Image of the book More Working in the Reggio WayIt has been nearly a decade since Julianne P. Wurm's Working in the Reggio Way: A Beginner's Guide for American Teachers was first published, and the book continues to garner a lot of attention in the early childhood field. The book's follow-up, More Working in the Reggio Way, was just released, and we recently had the opportunity to chat about it. Julianne also answered a few questions about her background, her studies and work in Italy as she researched the Reggio approach, and her globetrotting experiences. You'll also find out what she's working on now.

 

Can you share a brief timeline of your educational and professional life?
How did you get to where you are today?
My career started as a member of Teach for America in 1992, and I was hooked on teaching from the first weeks of school. I originally had plans to be an attorney, but discovered teaching was a natural fit for me. As my understanding of pedagogy was limited, I decided to go back to school to earn my MA and EdM from the Teachers College, which took about four years, as I was still teaching in New York City at the time. In the summer of 1997, I went to Europe and, while traveling in Italy, was told of these amazing schools in Reggio Emilia. I returned to the USA having decided to move to Italy and work in these schools. Little did I know what that would entail! It meant a lot of sacrifice, hard work, and a year learning Italian. In retrospect, I am not sure I would have the courage today to make such a move, but I am so glad I did it—those were some very special and wonderful years.

As you said, your time in Italy sparked and fed your initial interest in the Reggio approach. How did that interest grow into the desire and knowledge to write your first book, Working in the Reggio Way?
I have always written and had dreams about being a writer, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I let the teachers and all of the Reggio Children people know I was planning to write a book while I was there—they read my notes and I presented my research findings to them before I left. But, to really crystallize my thinking, it took some time back in the USA and actually talking about the work to other educators. That really helped cement the organization in my own mind.
What did the teachers you were working with think of your findings?
Teachers are always interested and seem to be in agreement. But what is always intriguing is that I often feel as though I am stating the obvious and teachers felt it but had not put it into words. But the types of research (dissertation versus Working in the Reggio Way stuff) have been very different. Working in the Reggio Way was qualitative and based on personal experience. I think this is the kind of thing that feels intuitive. The data on documentation as a vehicle for professional development touches on a much larger data source. So, when I share a finding like, teachers have more difficulty collaborating with each other than students or parents, it gives a moment of pause.
Tell us about your decision to write the follow-up book, More Working in the Reggio Way.
collage of Julianne's picturesI had not anticipated writing another book on the topic. After working with so many educators all over the USA and only having shared six of the 20 themes that emerged from the overall research in the first book, I knew a second book was waiting to be written. About six years ago, I started working on More Working in the Reggio Way. It is an extension of the conversation in Working in the Reggio Way and isinfused with more insights from the original research, as well as particulars from all of my travel around North America. There are a number of considerations that are difficult for the Italian to address. Having been a teacher for a number of years, I feel a deep connection and understanding of the challenges faced in North American schools. So the new book focuses on addressing these more directly.

More Working in the Reggio Way took much longer than I anticipated, but I also was working on my EdD during the time—my plate was pretty full. It was wonderful to get back into my original notes and reflect on my time living in Reggio Emilia. There were so many wonderful things about the years I spent there aside from my time in the schools.

It's probably hard to say at this point, but do you think there will ever be an Even More Working in the Reggio Way?
There is still data that I have not shared, so anything is possible! When I initially finished the analysis that led to these two books, they came from a group of 20 themes that emerged. We have only addressed about 10, so there is still much more to share. I am currently finishing two other research projects looking at how ideas spread and another on why it is so difficult to say no—both of these are my next books and although they are about learning they are quite a distance from my previous work. There is still a lot of time in my career—I just hope to continue to be of service to teachers. If that means another book I am happy to oblige. You can see more about my many projects and check out my blog (on cards—a cool new technology) at www.juliannewurm.com

Tell us a bit about your time in Italy. What sticks out as most memorable?
I had a fun group of friends and we would go to the beach in the summer and in the winter. I was able to explore Italy with Italians, who were my closest friends. We had a lot of fun dinner parties, and it really showed me a different way of life—of being with friends and family in a more relaxed and everyday fashion. I look back with real fondness on that time in my life—it was very special. I miss Italy but still cook in the same ways I learned there! It was the best food. Seriously.

Care to share one of these terrific recipes or Italian cooking techniques?
I would have to say that the thing I still make and eat a lot is a simple pasta bianca, which is pasta of a short type with olive oil and fresh parmesan cheese. The food was very fresh and simple—I still eat this way. Another thing I made recently is a risotto con gorgonzola, but I promised my Italian friends who taught me not to give away the secret . . . So, sorry!

What are you working on now?
My interests have shifted to research about learning that touches on things like ideas—how they spread—and the art of saying no. Those are two projects I have been working on over the last three years and it has deepened my research skills as well as my own learning. My professional life has expanded greatly to include more writing for general audiences, (HBR, CNN), about my newer research. I still work with schools and teachers as often as possible and find that very rewarding and fun.

Traveling is also a big part of my life. I traveled to 24 countries in one year—it was amazing—while researching the ways ideas spread. Earlier this year, I took a six-week sabbatical to South East Asia and explored Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Travel helps keep my eyes open to the world around me and keeps me questioning and learning.

Wow! So when you aren't globetrotting, what does a typical day look like for you?
On a typical day—though they are all pretty different—I tend to do my creative stuff in the morning: writing, editing, etc. A couple of days a week I have meetings and, since I live in NYC, I have a pretty robust social calendar that is typically a mix of business and friends. They seem to mix together quite seamlessly. I curate content for brands and do a lot of writing for my own website and blog.

Besides traveling, what else is on your bucket list, career-wise or personally?
Next things for me are some endeavors into entrepreneurship and more writing. I have two more books on my desk in various stages of completion and the research on saying no will become another book as well. As for bucket list stuff, there are so many things I want to do! I feel like I am just getting started!