Wen Zhao, who is now OneSky’s Senior Professional Development Director,
began her own student-teacher journey with psychologist Carolyn Edwards, a renowned expert in Reggio Emilia, and one of OneSky’s key advisors from the beginning.
“Working with Carolyn, I learned deeper ways to listen to children, become close to them, and build lasting relationships,” Wen says. She recalls how many times Carolyn turned to her for answers, how she trusted Wen’s viewpoint.
“When I look back at that relationship and remember the moment when I felt happy and confident, it was when Carolyn became a student listening to me, searching for my answers. I felt so good about that. I thought, wow, my teacher is listening to me, asking me. It must mean that I am capable of working things out. “
Carolyn, says Wen, was such a great listener. That’s how Reggio works, says Wen. “Sometimes the student is the teacher and sometimes the teacher is the student. It is like a dance back and forth.”
It’s Carolyn’s firm belief that teachers should always offer each other emotional support and encouragement, as well as practical suggestions and advice.
As Wen continues to grow in her work, she continues to rely on her relationship with Carolyn as well as her relationship with Du. These relationships affect the whole person,” says Wen. “This is my learning journey.”
Today, Du is Director of OneSky’s Preschool Program, and trains other teachers. In every encounter, she passes along the wisdom she learned from Wen, who in turn learned it from Carolyn. And the support and wisdom flows both ways: Carolyn will say how much she learned from Wen and Wen will say how much she has learned from Du.
And Du, with every new group of teachers, will tell the young teachers how much is learning from talking deeply with them and watching them at work.
Nowadays it’s Du who can be found kneeling on the floor with a small child, listening carefully, encouraging the child to take a step she might not have taken alone. Together, teacher and child take on the world—learning how birds fly, or why the stars come out at night, or what vegetables go into the soup they had for lunch. “You can do it, I have faith in you,” Du will say softly, looking into the eyes of a little one who needs to know she is cared for.
“With every group, I promise that love and sensitivity will change young lives in ways they can’t even imagine,” she says. “And, I tell the teachers, this work will change your own lives as well.
“I can safely make that promise because my own life has been changed so much,” says Du. “I have been so honored to have the opportunity to spread motherly love to as many children who have lost their birth parents as possible, the motherly love that enables the children to laugh, to cry, and to develop just like children growing up in families.
“I believe every caregiver and teacher I train has the potential to transform children’s lives, and that together we are building a new generation of loving caregivers,” Du continues. “I learned all this from my mentor and teacher Wen.”
“I always feel her by my side as I do this work,” says Du. “And I always remember her words: ‘We are all working together to believe in our own capabilities, so we can pass our learning and love on to the children.’”