Image of the Teacher

Image of the Teacher

If we stand up forcefully in advocacy for children’s strengths and children’s rights, why not forcefully advocate for teacher’s strengths and teacher’s rights?

In Your Image of the Child, Loris Malaguzzi reminds us to regard children as whole human beings with a powerful sense of agency who can be as unpredictable as we are ourselves.

The school we are talking about is not the school you are familiar with in the past, but it is something that you can hope for. —Loris Malaguzzi, Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins

Malaguzzi reminds us that an aspirational image of the child can enable us to bring acceptance and flexibility to every encounter.

Revisit Our Image of a Child

It’s necessary that we believe that the child is very intelligent, that the child is strong and beautiful and has very ambitious desires and requests. —Loris Malaguzzi

It takes wisdom—and a great deal of practice—for teachers to educate strong and beautiful children with very ambitious desires and requests. If that is true, why not hold the same ideal for the adults who lead and care for them?

Examine assumptions about Teachers

A corresponding aspiration for adults would address our image of the educator. A shift in our assumptions about teachers could disrupt the current discourse of destructive distrust and choking constraints. A powerful image of the teacher could apply the pedagogy of listening to those who do the leading and caring—those who know our children and look out for them. Instead of words of disparagement and standards, a powerful image of the teacher would remind us of our reliance upon the teacher’s experience and wisdom to grow good schools.

Children have a right to a good school — a good building, good teachers, right time, good activities. This is the right of ALL children. — Loris Mallaguzi

Apply Malaguzzi’s Words

Below are quotations from Loris Malaguzzi about the Image of the Child. I have replaced the word child with teacher to hear how Malaguzzi’s school to hope for applies to teachers, too. When the word teacher appears within his message instead of the word child, we hear the wisdom of Malaguzzi and embolden our Image of a Teacher.

Teachers…need to know that we are their friends, that they can depend upon us for the things they desire, that we can support them in the things that they have, but also in the things that they dream about, that they desire.” —Loris Malaguzzi

The political rationalization for constraining funds for education and narrowing activities allowed in a school is that teachers are incapable, subservient employees who ought to implement assigned tasks. A darkened image veils the need for this essential public investment and rationalizes the imposition of external controls.

Improve Schools

If we want to improve schools for young children, we can accompany the work of holding a powerful image of the child with an identical belief for teachers.

It’s necessary that we believe that the …teacheris very intelligent, that the…teacheris strong and beautiful and has very ambitious desires and requests. —Loris Malaguzzi

A wholesome image of the educator follows that belief.

Teachers…need to enjoy being in school, they need to love their school and the interactions that take place there. Their expectations of these interactions is critical.” —Loris Malaguzzi

We know this. It’s the truth. It’s easy for us to think of teachers as thoughtful, inquisitive, people, whom we depend upon to lead not only the children but also their administrators. We believe teachers are essential participants in the enhancement of our local community.

Set the Stage for a Better Future

The teacher sees it all. Like a theatrical production company, events in a school—in each classroom and each building—are led by the teachers. They design the sets, author the story, cue the scenes, stage the actions, prompt the actors, and listen and consider the work. Their every action and word creates the emergent conditions for the best in every child who is an essential, powerful member of the classroom community.

“We need to produce situations in whichteachers…learn by themselves, in whichteachers…can take advantage of their own knowledge and resources autonomously, and in which we guarantee the intervention of the adult as little as possible.” —Loris Malaguzzi

We can disrupt the language of “training and technical assistance,” which wastes their time and masks the imposition of policies constraining the choices teachers can make in the daily life of a school.

Rely on Teacher’s Expertise

Holding a wholesome image of the teacher reminds us to support those whose thoughtfulness and expertise ensure the well-being of our children and vitality of our communities.

“Both children and adults need to feel active and important — to be rewarded by their own efforts, their own intelligences, their own activity and energy.” —Loris Malaguzzi

Our wholesome image of the teacher, like that of the child, inspires our trust. We expect them to do good work, to choose well, to forward our shared ideals, and to grow in concert with the interests of our community.

“Those who have the image of the…teacher…as fragile, incomplete, weak, made of glass gain something from this belief only for themselves. We don’t need that as an image of the…teacher.—Loris Malaguzzi

Recognize teachers as leaders

Those who choose teaching ought to be full participants, along with their communities, in the authorship of their own lives. 

Let us demand that discussions and proposals about improving education contain an aspirational image of the teacher to honor their role and celebrate their strengths.

call out discounting

We can be discerning in the ways people refer to those who teach, for wholesome education enables us all to work toward a sustainable world of stewardship and hope.


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