Transforming Education- June 2014

Finding a Safe Harbor

“You must find a safe harbor. Find a place where you can bring your ship in to rest,for you to eat, sleep, and renew so that you may re-launch your ship into the sea knowing in your heart and mind that others are struggling with the same concerns and issues as you.”
-Carlina Rinaldi, President of Reggio Children

On March 21, I embarked on the most wonderful study trip to Reggio Emilia, Italy, with Dr. Ryan Flessner, Associate Professor of Education, and 21 eager College of Education elementary education majors. Our students learn about the philosophy, principles, and practices of Reggio Emilia and have had experience in the Indianapolis Public Schools/Butler University Laboratory School, which is inspired by Reggio practices.

The Professor/Student Study trip offered by Reggio Children International was specifically designed to deepen student understanding of Reggio and to have experiences in their schools. We also learned from incredible Reggio educators in seminars and lectures. Each day was filled with learning and dialogue, and I was incredibly proud of Dr. Flessner and all of the students.

Dr. Flessner did his undergraduate degree in the College of Education, and now he is my faculty colleague. Being reggioable to experience my beloved Reggio Emilia with him was truly a “full circle” moment as I watched him teach the undergraduates. For me, this experience was a way for me to find my “safe harbor” after completing a challenging session with the Indiana General Assembly and continuing to encounter the assaults on teachers and teacher education. Carlina’s words were like oxygen to me, reminding me to breathe, see things from a clearer perspective, renew, and be able to re-launch myself knowing that I am not alone. Being with this wonderful Butler group helped me to find my compass!

The trip inspired my thoughts for this month’s column. Where is your safe harbor? How will you take some time this spring and summer to rest, refresh, renew and re-launch? Are you a safe harbor for a colleague?

While you are in your safe harbor, I offer the following quotes from Reggio educators to inspire your thinking and reflecting time:

  • Schools ARE life, not a preparation for it.
  • For innovation to occur, we must be able to disassemble all of our certainties.
  • YOU are the future. You are teacher-researchers. Serendipity, doubt, curiosity, hypotheses, confusion, and the unknown should define research in schools.
  • Never has the future been as uncertain or as unknown as it is today. Giving children the COURAGE to make mistakes, explore the unknown, embrace doubt and curiosity will make it possible for them to construct the future.
  • To know that we do not know is the key to the future.

Carlina also shared a beautiful message with our group when she explained, “Why the last moment is the first moment.” She asked us to think about when we had met someone for the first time, which then in turn became the first moment of new relationship. This also applies to encountering an idea that becomes the first moment of a new quest for you.

I offer to you, as the last moment for my monthly column until the new academic year, the quest for a “safe harbor.” May it be the first moment on your journey of finding that special harbor of rest and renewal.

“Perhaps then we can all see a new horizon.”
-Carlina Rinaldi


My best,
Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

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