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Self-Portraits In Classroom 4: Loving and Embracing Others and Ourselves

Self-Portraits In Classroom 4: Loving and Embracing Others and Ourselves

“A self-portrait is an intimate, bold declaration of identity.  In her self-portrait, a child offers herself as both subject and artist.  When we look at her self-portrait, we see a child as she sees herself.  The story of self-portrait work is a tender story to tell. (95)” - Loris Malaguzzi

When children and their families embark on a journey with The Washington Market School, that journey entails becoming part of a tightly knit community that embraces and upholds equity at the heart of education. Our school’s anti-Bias anti-Racist (ABAR) framework is woven into every classroom’s curriculum and consists of self-love, embracing others, identifying unfairness and acting justly. In Classroom 4, they do a monthly exploration through self-portraits. They began their work of creating self-portraits in September. As they were getting to know each other individually, working on self-portraits helped the children learn more about each other as well as learn more about how they see themselves. Using loose parts, a felt board, and a mirror, each child had an opportunity to examine their face, discuss what they saw in the mirror, and put together a collage with the idea of representing how they see themselves. 

Each month, as they work on their self-portraits, the Classroom 4 teachers pose a different question for the children to think about as they work. To kick off their self-portrait work, and to honor The Washington Market School’s foundational value of self-love, the question they asked in September was, “What do you love about yourself?” Later on in October, the children observed themselves in the mirror once again. This time, they were invited to use a special black sharpie marker and piece of paper to draw their portraits. The children love watching their faces change in the mirror as they stick out their tongues, express different emotions, or try to count how many teeth or eyelashes they have.  Self-portraits unlock the door to the exploration of endless facial expressions and naming of emotions, equipping children with increased emotional literacy. 

They then began to put their marker to the paper and draw circles, lines and dots - marks they would use with more precision when they begin to draw features that represent how they see themselves. Over the course of the year, as children develop their fine motor skills, abstract thinking, and familiarity with the task, the teachers are eager to see how the young learners’  thinking of themselves evolves.

During the month of January, Classroom 4 began to think more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. With him in mind combined with our ongoing focus on our ABAR framework, the teachers asked “How do you like to help others?” This framework informs how they interact with one another and their prepared environment.  Here, the children develop confidence in who they are, how they are feeling, and how to express themselves to their classmates. The children in Classroom 4 are learning how to treat others with fairness and respect, as well as how to embrace differences rather than ignore or fear them. 

At the end of the year, it is a Classroom 4 tradition to put the children’s monthly self-portraits in their portfolios in chronological order alongside a photo of them at work. These special portfolios document each child's personal journey throughout their time in Classroom 4. Starting in the springtime, the children will begin to look through their portfolios and use their self-portraits to help them reflect on how they have changed and grown throughout the year, and recognize what they can do now that they couldn’t do before. It is an extraordinary and important journey that our teachers have the privilege to document!