Waikato Seminar Day

Posted on July 30, 2009

We are delighted to offer an inaugural event for teachers in the Hamilton area who are interested and inspired by the pedagogy of Reggio Emilia.

This seminar day will be an opportunity to learn more about the notion of the pedagogy of listening through presentations and discussion groups.

This seminar day will be facilitated and presented by REANZ trust members Lesley Pohio, Helen Aitken & Glenys Waller along with our guest presenters Shelley Jolly & Tracey McAllister from St James Kindergarten in Auckland

The day will include a range of presentations, discussions and visual examples of visible listening within our work with children.

Central to our discussion will be how as teachers in Aoteraoa New Zealand we can be inspired by pedagogy from Reggio Emilia Italy, whilst simply avoiding replication.

Key Presentation:



In this presentation we will open our door and welcome you to share a visual feast of how our physical and social environment strives to reflect responsive, reciprocal and meaningful listening. The presentation will also provide practical ideas and inspiration through documentation and discussion. Links will be made to the pedagogy of listening from Reggio Emilia, and how we have used this knowledge to create our own unique Whāriki.

REANZ’s Commitment to connect with Regions outside of Auckland: We are hoping that this Seminar day will also be an opportunity to form a Waikato network group who can continue to foster & disseminate information relating to REANZ and Reggio inspired practice. Could this be you?

Thoughts on the Waikato Seminar Day:

‘Connecting with Reggio through the pedagogy of listening’

Seminar facilitated & Presented by Helen Aitken, Lesley Pohio & Glenys Waller

with guest presenters Shelley Jolly & Tracey McAllister (St James Kindergarten, AKA

Seminar review written by John Menneer

Explorers Early Learning Centre
185 Grey St, Hamilton East


Marcus (5 years) “Dad where are you going tomorrow”?

Teacher Dad: “To a course on listening.

Marcus: “Listening?”

Teacher Dad: “Yes, a course on learning how to listen to children.

Marcus: “Why aren’t us kids going”?

Teacher Dad: “Why do you kids need to go?”

Marcus: “to learn how to listen to us.”

Reflective Dad: “Ohyeah

The seminar was held on Saturday 22nd August in Hamilton at the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) in a stunningly modern and beautiful building and setting. This provided a relational space (to use a Reggio phrase) that acted as a very stimulating environment in which to learn and receive new information; the third teacher was well represented. Christine Coombes, who is the Team Leader of the Early Childhood Education programme at Wintec opened the day with a warm welcome, followed by a karakia and waiata.

The dialogue above with my 5 year old son occurred the night before the seminar and forced me to reflect on what my expectations of the next day might be. I decided that in fact I wasn’t going to a seminar to “learn how to listen”, but was looking forward to exploring the concept of listening from the perspective of gaining insight. The real learning would come later when I interacted with children and engaged in reflective practice. The seminar was brilliant and fulfilled my child-initiated expectations.

Lesley began with a presentation on “Exploring Cultural Contexts for Italy and Aotearoa”. This was a great place to start as she addressed one of the most important questions those of us who embrace the Reggio Approach face, that is, how do we avoid duplication and find a fit for Reggio within our own cultural context in Aotearoa? An obvious response to this question is ensuring that Te Whāriki is still honored in our practice and early childhood environments, and is not relegated to a lower order simply because Reggio is the underpinning philosophy. Lesley probed somewhat deeper than this, highlighting the importance of thinking holistically and considering our own cultural values, lifestyles, society, and sense of community as we develop our own approach to Reggio, while still maintaining the fundamental principles that underpin the Reggio Approach. Lesley’s presentation gave me much food for thought as my teachers and I progress on our own journey of discovery as we develop our philosophy at Explorers based on the Reggio Approach. I often ask myself: Will I still call our philosophy the Reggio Approach in 10 years time? Maybe it will become the Hamilton Approach, or the Explorers Approach, as we take on our own cultural context.

The “Pedagogy of Listening” was the next presentation and was given by Helen Aitken. Although ECE teachers aren’t allowed favourites, this talk was the one I enjoyed the most. Helen first gave a definition of ‘pedagogy’ which was helpful since the word seems to have so many enigmatic qualities: “Pedagogy: The art and science of teaching (what we’re doing and why).” Helens talk was full of inspirational art and science regarding listening to children. Some memorable “learning” phrases I particularly enjoyed with reference to listening were “Listening with all our senses”, “seeing through the child’s eyes”, and visible/visual listening – “how is the notion of visible listening being enacted by the teacher?” The notion of “visible listening” was a concept I loved and which has become more obvious to me now. This week I asked one of my teachers if she had any language for a child’s drawing I wanted to display, her response was: “No, Alisha didn’t say much when she was drawing, but she expressed herself a lot through her body language [visible listening]”. I was impressed with the teacher’s pedagogy of listening, and we documented the child’s body language, which is now part of the display. I think I like the term visible listening because it challenges me to listen by observation as well as by hearing. Listening with all my senses is now my pet mantra.

The morning went quickly with the sharing of Lesley’s and Helen’s knowledge and experience. After morning tea two teachers (Shelley Jolley and Tracey McAllister) from St James kindergarten addressed the seminar. Their presentation gave the practical outworking of being a listening teacher. Several of my teachers said they enjoyed this presentation immensely. I thought the opening of this presentation was innovative with Shelley giving their introduction in sign language. This was very fitting and although I exercised visible listening I still didn’t understand what was going on until Tracey translated. I thought this was a valuable lesson in showing the importance of using all the senses (eyes and ears in this case) to gain understanding, especially if you can’t understand the body language! Shelley and Tracey spoke of many interesting points relating to listening, such as: Having a responsive environment (not one that just looks good) – what resources do you have to achieve this? Thinking about your daily routine and supervision – does it support listening? Listen to your environment – what is it telling you? Lastly, different children need to be listened to in different ways. A topic of interest to me was Shelley’s discussion on schemas, and functional dependency as an example of schema. I found this to be a very useful concept to improve my pedagogy of listening as it gave me a framework to understand why children sometimes do what they do. During the discussion on schemas my thoughts were immediately drawn to a 3 year old girl (Riya) who comes to Explorers and whose schema is often revealed during water play. I’ll be less frustrated now at Riyas’ repeated water play sessions in the children’s sink in the arts area – I see her schema now.

The balance of the day (following lunch) was further presentations and some group work again led by Lesley and Helen. Lesley gave some interesting insight into making learning visible with a PowerPoint exposé of different forms of documentation displays from within early childhood settings and also within the community (on walls, fences etc). These were quite inspiring with many good examples from Reggio Emilia city and its pre-schools – maybe this talk was my favourite? This address presented several challenges for me: How can I listen without documentation? And even more challenging, how can the broader learning community listen without documentation, and how do we make learning visible to our local community?

As last speaker of the day, Glenys Waller of St Cuthbert’s school gave me some hope with their use of the Reggio inspired practice at primary school level. This I’m sure is a positive step, especially for new entrants who might come from a less prescriptive early childhood environment. I’m sure that it would help with their adjusting to the more formal setting of a school environment. In finishing this review I’ll close with the words of Tracey and Shelley: Be brave teachers, be passionate teachers, and be teachers that go into uncertain space (I like the last one)