Archive for Documentation
I visited a child care centre where I used to work this afternoon and it was an interesting experience. Certainly a lot has changed in the years since I’ve worked there, but what was interesting to see were the things that hadn’t changed. Documentation panels that I’d assembled at the end of long term projects were still on the walls and a classroom display that had come out of a project on farm animals was still up on the cupboards. The furniture was different, the toys and learning materials were changed, but there were still these base elements, part of this centre’s history that remained. These project boards and displays were once the first things put up on bare walls, the first few pages of a new centre’s history. Now they are joined by more recent documentation and displays of current projects. The walls are full of history, and the centre seems lived in, rather than institutional as it had before.
I remember when I started at that centre, it was just opening in a brand new building. We shared a building with another institution, and so although the centre was beautiful, the starkness of the bare walls and the general design of the building seemed more like a hospital than a home. We wanted to fill the walls with documentation and other displays, as we were Reggio inspired and wanted to create a similar look and feel, however we were reminded that creating a history takes time. I was certainly reminded of that today. I think that we are often eager to move forward to get to the next stage in our practice, in our journey; we want the end result and lose sight of the process. Being in that centre today reminded me of the importance of the journey, that each step is necessary and important. History doesn’t happen overnight.
Photo by JaniceCullivan on Flickr
I have wanted to read The Diary of Laura for a number of years now, even purchasing a copy at conference last year, however I’ve been so caught up in the busyness of life that I tucked it away and promptly forgot about it. Luckily, my year end cleaning turned it up and now I’m trying to work through it in an intentional way, as is my goal for all things this year. The Diary of Laura is, as it sounds, the documentation diary of a infant named Laura during her time in an infant-toddler program in Reggio Emilia, Italy. What I really like about this book is that it has a number of chapters written by different authors sharing their reflections on the diary, and their experiences working with young children. There is also a section with questions to encourage group reading or the use of the book as a professional development tool, so if anyone wants to start a group read of this book, let me know.
One of the first things that struck me is a question posed in the introduction of the book – “Is the form of documentation called “diary” still of interest after twenty years?” I think that as early childhood educators, the practice of documentation is one that we are constantly refining. Programs and individuals have different goals in their use of documentation and especially as technology continues to evolve and change, our methods of documentation also seem to be changing. So, then if we are trying to determine whether the “diary” is still of interest, we need to examine what do we mean by “diary”. Clearly, a diary is a narrative form of documentation, it can include media, such as photos or videos and work samplings. However, I think what sets a diary apart from other documentation is that it requires reflection. A diary is not an exclusively objective presentation of the facts, it allows for wonder, for speculation. You can go back to a previous entry in a diary and continue to add to it, as insights occur. Contextual information is often included. As important as it is for us to be objective observers, the value of our reflections and speculations about why a child might be doing something (especially when the child can’t tell us themselves) are of equal value. I think that in a time where test scores and checklists are becoming our standards for assessment, it’s important to include in our observations opportunities to reflect, to wonder, and even to speculate.
What do you think?
Oh, and one last thing- the diaries in the infant-toddler programs in Reggio and shared between caregivers and families, and both have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and observations. What a wonderful way to nurture our partnerships with families!