I do not like asking for help. I never have, and I probably never will. In fact, my husband teases me for waiting to take headache medication until I'm absolutely miserable. I don't know why I do this - pride, stubbornness, the skewed belief that suffering implies dedication...probably a little of them all. I have no illusions that this is an attractive habit. In theory, I love the idea of humans reaching out and helping one another. I just want to be the one helping, thanks.
It makes sense then, at least superficially, that I'd love being a teacher, particularly a teacher of young children. It can feel that I'm needed constantly. I'm needed to wipe noses and dry tears and tie shoes and give hugs. I love the break-neck pace of my work day, and I love my role as the ultimate helper in my students' lives. Even when I have the luxury of an assistant or co-teacher, I want to do it all. You can find me cheerfully cutting and gluing during nap time, staying late to refresh bookshelves, and hand-making activities over the weekend. Because I want to.
So striving to be a Reggio-inspired teacher is rocking my world a little bit.
I need to ask for help all the time, and from everybody. First, I asked if I could pilot a Reggio-inspired classroom in my school. Then, I asked if I could have some updates to the space. I asked for administrators' observations and feedback. I asked for my fellow teacher's perspectives. I asked parents how they felt about the changes happening. I asked the children for their ideas and reflections. It immediately became clear that this was not an endeavor that could be done - or, at least, be done well - on my own.
Now, in my second year of study and Reggio-inspired work, I'm finding that I need to ask for help in even more ways. When a moment of inspiration hits in the classroom, I just start asking.
To a colleague: "Do you remember that book you read two years ago about...? Can I borrow it?"
In a class newsletter: "Please save your extra paper towel tubes/milk lids/newspapers for us!"
Calling a local shop: "Could I bring a group of 13 three- and four-year-olds to buy something for a project?"
It's a humbling experience to ask for so much help. It means acknowledging that I can't do it all. That I may not have all the answers. But it's even harder to accept that I'm working to make myself un-needed to my students. If a nose needs blowing or a shoe needs tying, I now teach the child how to do it themselves. If a conflict leads to tears, I now ask, "What would you like to do about that?" It's absolutely exhilarating to see the magic that happens when children are trusted as powerful and competent. Still, I wrestled with a bit of selfish heartbreak that I'm not the "helper" who simplifies and makes life easier
In so many ways, Reggio is teaching me lessons outside of the classroom. Can I do it alone? Sure. But the good stuff - the wild, scary, messy, meaningful, beautiful stuff - happens when I ask for help.
There is a kind of grace in the asking. And to not just ask for help; to ask and then accept it.