Image of the Teacher

Image of the Teacher

Can we apply the same advocacy of children’s strength and rights to the teacher’s strength and rights?

Can we enable those who choose teaching find the great pleasure that comes from being a participant with their communities in the authorship of their own lives?

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

In the article linked above, 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. Malaguzzi reminds us that an aspirational image of the child can enable us to bring acceptance and flexibility to the fore. Our teaching will always contain uncertainty and doubt, and it takes wisdom and a great deal of knowledge on the part of the teachers to be able to work within this situation of uncertainty.

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

Why do we not look at the adults who work with children in the same open, respectful, and trusting way? An equal quest would be to hold a powerful image of the educator, one that would call attention to the destructiveness of questionable external constraints and, most especially, to the need for acceptance and flexibility in educational systems. It follows that both systems and people would be holding expectations of trust and assurance.

Image Can Alter Expectations

Let’s pause for a moment, pull back the cover, and examine how we think commonly about teachers. We can remember the words of Loris Malaguzzi to guide our expectations of teachers.

If we simply change the word “child” to the word “teacher,” we might see things differently. Below you can hear how it sounds to turn Malaguzzi’s sentences toward the 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 and narrowing the activities in a school is that teachers are incapable, subservient employees who obediently implement assigned tasks. That image masks the intention to hinder public investment. The talk sustains external controls.

If we want to improve schools for young children we can accompany the work of holding a powerful image of the child with holding a powerful image of the teacher.

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

This kind of wholesome image of the educator disrupts the implication that educators are untrustworthy, who must be constrained without input or resources in a state of coercion.

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 can disrupt all implied subservience. We can treat teachers as thoughtful, inquisitive, people, whom we depend upon to lead not only the children but also the administrators and the local community. Like a theater, what happens in a school, in each classroom and each building, is built by the teachers. They are the set designers, authors, directors, prompters, and first audience. Their every action and word creates the emergent conditions for the best in every child.

“We need to produce situations in which”…teachers… “learn by themselves, in which”…teachers… “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” to mask acceptance of policies which constrain the daily life of a school. 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” … teachers…” —Loris Malaguzzi

Teachers are the leaders of our children.


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

We can be discerning in the words we use to refer to those who teach, and not discount them, for they build a sustainable world of stewardship and hope.


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