It's Friday afternoon and as usual I am buzzing around all the centres, trying to connect with all my staff before I rush out in time to pick up my youngest daughter from school.
I don't live in this neighborhood, although I have travelled these roads daily for the past decade. I know I must leave by 2 pm to get to my daughters school by 2:40. There's just not enough time in the day to get everything I need to done!
I enter the Spirit Bear Lodge, hands full with bursting Dollar Store bags, books and keys in hand. The fresh scent of Lavender immediately hits my nose, and I am welcomed by two women engaged in conversation in the atelier. One is our Atelierista the other our cleaner. As the two ladies continue their conversation I am then greeted with running knee hugs from two of my little bears. I feel so welcome here. This is my second home.
I start to find places for the new books on the wooden shelf, and I start to sort through the giant Recyclable bag from the Dollar store. So many things....
I had an idea one night while I was thinking about spring and all the flowering plants around the property. I thought, what if I could bring in those bright flowers and make them last? I had found these incredibly beautiful silk and fabric flowers from the dollar store that I thought would really make the centres look incredible.
I started in the Cub House and slowly made my way through the 4 other centres, decorating with bursts of colours everywhere.
As I sat in conversation with one of my staff, we both agreed that the flowers had such a beautiful and soft touch to them, and it really helped to brighten the space up.
In the Reggio philosophy, Loris Malaguzzi encourages us to use he environment as the third teacher. We create beautiful spaces worthy of the beautiful children who occupy them.
As I looked around at my creative masterpieces I say to my staff,
"I like the way it looks, even if they are plastic."
We both kind of paused for a moment.
There's that DIRTY word....plastic.
I immediately thought, "Do I really love this, even though they are not real?"
Looking to my colleague, she agreed that the additional flowers looked lovely and that they did add a new and beautiful element to the environment.
"We're all just a walking contradiction, aren't we?", she laughed.
"Yes, we truly are." I agreed uncertainly.
Even if you read back to one of my earliest posts, you will find an article about banning plastics and my hatred for cheaply made, expendable land fill.
So why am I purposely buying them fro my centre?
I guess, even my own beliefs can be squewed a little when I get into the decorating mood. When I wrap my brain around my idea of a (throw-way) plastic and one that will last in my centres for decades, I can find some rationale with it.
I know these flowers will be used and re-used over and over again for decades. I know that they can be restored very easily when they get a little dull with some soap and water. (you can even throw them in the dishwasher if you didn't know!)
I have 4 centres that they can rotate through. If they happen to break (which is highly unlikely) I suppose they could be cut up and used in the atelier.
For some reason, I felt like these were okay to purchase, because they don't have a one-time -only use.
But even now, here I am questioning my decision.
This is not the first or the last time I will question the decisions I make when it comes to my programs and the working environment.
In the article that Kim Atkinson and I wrote a couple of years ago, "An Uncertain Tale: Alternative Conceptualizations of Pedagogical Leadership", I was grappling with the idea of completely changing a much loved, and very popular space in my program called the Zoom Room. This room was filled with bright primary coloured plastics "Disney" posters, cars, trains and A LOT of PLASTIC toys. At one time, I thought this room was awesome, but something deep inside was telling me a different story.
It started on a weekend, I just emptied the entire space out. Everything had to go! The room had also become a holding space for "beautiful junk" that I had been holding on for who knows how long! When was I ever going to use that old water marked paper roll, those egg cartons, that flower wrap or those Christmas cards? It was too much, and it all needed to go.
To shorten this story, and get to the point, this "zoom room" became an art studio, or "atelier" as they would call it in Reggio-Emilia, Italy.
It took on a whole new feeling, as I covered the walls in white paper, added some pre-mixed paint jars, wooden stumps and even a giant brick of clay.
Fast forward, to present day, you will NOT find a ZOOM room in ANY of my centres, but you most certainly will find our precious art studios, papered walls, lots of wooden stumps, paint jars and giant lumps of clay.
In our everyday life we contradict ourselves all the time!
We buy items from China, even though we protest child labor.
We stop at Tim Horton's for a tea and a doughnut even though we are trying to lose a few pounds.
I could go on ad on, but you get the idea.
I can live with my decision to buy these silk,fabric and plastic flowers for my centre. I feel strongly that I am doing my part in SO many ways to be true to my beliefs and my word.
It is nice to take a step back now and then and question the , "WHY", of what we do.
I am truly so thankful to have such incredible colleagues around me who can also comment and question my actions with the sincerity that they do.
We are only human.
I am only one of many people that work in this environment, and it has to feel right for everyone!
I am reminded that we do have many REAL flowers and bushes around the property that actually smell and bloom every spring, and I am so thankful for their beauty.
Today, I will stop and smell them all.