Listen! What do you hear?

by | Jan 9, 2022 | Articles, Inspirations

Listening to Children


Listen! What do you hear?

Ontario Reggio Association’s professional learning – In Dialogue with Indications – begins its series with listening.

Four-year-old Aubrey is the first to arrive for school each morning. We chat outdoors as we wait for other children to arrive for kindergarten. Aubrey is bundled in a snowsuit when she muses:

“It’s sweating out. It’s hot, but there’s snow.” (Aubrey)

Aubrey’s words feel like a gift to me. If I listen carefully, I can glimpse the cognitive knots she is trying to make sense of. I marvel at the depth of Aubrey’s big questions:

How can snow lay white and fluffy on the ground when she feels the heat of playing on a summer beach? Can summer and winter exist at the same time? What is heat? Where does it come from? Where does it go?

I loved this early morning outdoor gathering time – the time when a school mindset had not yet settled into the children’s bones; when home still sat on the tips of their tongues, in their bounce of their steps, and in the spark in their eyes peering above their face masks. I looked forward to this one-on-one time with Aubrey before others arrived. She was always thinking aloud, making connections, and wondering about her world.

“I’m growing up but I’m still my size.” Aubrey’s voice paused. “My mom grew into a woman.”

Aubrey was wondering what it means to grow up. Would she get taller and transform into a woman like her mom? When would that happen, how, and why? And what about her identity? Would becoming a grown-up mean she stops being the Aubrey she is right now?

A Pedagogy of Listening

In our face-paced, economy-driven North American society, listening deeply to and with children and one another can feel elusive. Our well-intentioned practice to protect and tell children what they need to do and think in our programs, classrooms, and homes, can often cause us to miss how deeply children are seeking answers to much bigger questions than we ever imagined.

In the words of Carlina Rinaldi:

Listening is a sensitivity to everything that connects us to the others, not only the listening of the school but the listening that we need in our life. The most important gift that we can give to the children in the school and in the family is time… to offer our time to the children, because time is the only possibility for listening and being listened to by others.(Innovations Vol 11, no.1, 2004, The Relationship between Documentation and Assessment by Carlina Rinaldi)

Carlina Rinaldi who has, for decades, inspired educators around the world to study and deepen their understanding of the Reggio Emilia Approach weaves in and out of our conversations as the Ontario Reggio Association working group and board members prepare for a three-part series of professional learning for early learning educators.

In Dialogue with Indications

In Dialogue with Indications: Connecting Contexts through Co-reflection is a series that explores the foundational principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach and invites conversation about what these principles mean for our work with young children and families in Ontario. The principle of listening is just one of twelve principles that grounds the work Reggio Emilia educators and is where we begin this series.

As I work with Karyn Callaghan, Ontario Reggio Association (ORA) board members, and the ORA professional learning working group to help prepare for this series, I experience their openness, humility, and excitement to listen to each of our ideas and perspectives. I experience their desire to continually grow as listeners of children, families, colleagues, and self.

We invite you to join this conversation online on January 17, February 7, and February 28 (6:45 – 8:15 p.m.)

To find out more about this professional learning opportunity, go to In Dialogue with Indications: Connecting Contexts through Co-reflection.