Synthesizing all of the information that I have gathered over the past three days at IDEC is getting a bit more difficult with every session that I go to. I began today eager, had wonderful conversations and dialogue and interactions, and then I began to feel overwhelmed. I have been considering my viewpoint as someone new to democratic education, trying to figure out what it might look like and some tips and tricks for how it might be done.
And then one little phrase floored me. It was just part of someone's introduction in one of the sessions, but I felt an instant connection.
Democratic Education is a mindset, not a skill set.
Another view someone voiced was democratic education as a genre. That resonated with me as well. I'm getting tired of labels: progressive, alternative, Montessori, Waldorf, Nature-Based, Learner-Centered, project based...it gets tiring trying to fit into those boxes. I eased my mind today through conversations about how there is no one way. There is no checklist on how to be democratic. But if you believe that it is important to promote choice, freedom, rights, and student voice, that makes a learning environment democratic.
More than a few times, participants at the conference have alluded to the schools of Reggio Emilia. For a very long time, I looked to Reggio Approach as a guide for my teaching and learning, especially in the aesthetics. The references this week have been about the rights of the children in those schools, and the incredible listening and documentation skills of the teachers. There are many parallels between the Reggio Approach and the genre of democratic education - perhaps there is more direction on aesthetics with the Reggio Approach. But children's freedom to choose, and teacher's promotion of the child's voice, in whatever medium it might be, are concepts shared by both the schools of Reggio Emilia and the mindset of the democratic educator.
The genre of democratic education is beginning to morph into a more personal shape as I engage in dialogue and listen here in Boulder. I've never thought so much about my own opinions and biases as I have this week. To share power with students, I have to understand my own definition of power and understand how I have used my role as teacher in the past. I hope to share some ideas in this space tomorrow and I invite you to think about the same topic and share as well. I'd love to hear your impressions, opinions, rants, and questions.