After graduating in 2008 with my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and Sociology/Anthropology, I went on to substitute teach for a year, then assistant teach for three years. I am now pursuing my graduate degree in Early Childhood Education and loving every minute of it.
The words of Aretha Franklin, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me, R-E-S-P-E-C-T…” are my life-long mantra. Respect is something – on a basic level – we all deserve simply because of our existence. As an educator, I have always thought being the adult in charge, keeping children safe and supporting their character growth were ways of showing them respect. However, when introduced to the work of Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education, I progressed to a deeper level of respect for children and their contributions to our world.
As an undergraduate, I studied the work of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky and knew key terms related to the Constructivist approach to teaching, but I did not understand what the application of these educational philosophies felt and looked like with children. Now as a graduate student with more classroom experience, the beautiful practicality, intricate simplicity, and deep respect for children inherent in the ideas of Piaget, Vygotsky, Malaguzzi, and many others who inspire the field of education guides all my interactions with children.
Children deserve respect -not once they have shown us they can perform to an adult-imposed standard- because they have intelligent, creative, and thoughtful contributions to share with the people and places around them. Respecting children involves giving and protecting their rights. Malaguzzi (1994)* writes that “Children have the right to imagine. We need to give them full rights of citizenship in life and in society.” Respecting children means keeping them safe, because safety is their right. Respecting children includes them (in appropriate ways) in decision-making, because having a say in their experience is their right, just as it is ours.