Today, November 1st is Magda Gerber’s Birthday. Magda’s impact on the child care community continues today and will continue long past my lifetime. Thirty-seven years ago I was fortunate to participate in the child caring panel at the conference. My dear friend and colleague, Norma Friend was also a member of the panel representing family child care. We had the opportunity to share with the conference goers the significance of Magda Gerber’s teachings on children and parents in our programs. After all these years, I think of Magda daily. There are many of us who experienced the passion of her work first-hand. I particularly love Rhonda Garcia’s insight into Magda’s presentation at the conference…she sums up Magda and her work……”Magda left us with the feeling that she understood our dilemmas,” ….breast-feed, bottle-feed; wean abruptly, wean gradually; start solids at birth, breast feed for years; feed according to the clock, feed according to demand; give the pacifier, pull out the thumb; don’t give the pacifier, allow the thumb; both…neither…..” As a way of understanding these contradictions, she encouraged us to critically examine current child-rearing practices in light of those which encourage our own goals and ideals for children.” I am so proud to have known you, Magda Gerber. Happy Birthday. Thank you for your work. (The following article was originally published in the Educaring Resources for Infant Educarers. Volume I Number I Winter 1979 by Rhonda Garcia)
The International Infant. The first Resources for Infant Educarers Conference, held in June 1979, presented a unique opportunity, for those 500 participants who attended, to hear Dr. Emmi Pikler. The conference which was held in both Los Angeles and Belmont, California on back-to-back weekends, served to introduce infant educarers to the R.I.E. philosophy of infant growth and development.
The International Infant Conference was the (as yet) largest undertaking by R.I.E. and it seemed appropriate that Dr.Pikler should be the featured speaker. The philosophical roots of R.I.E.extend from the founder and director Magda Gerber, to the National Methodological Institute for Residential Nurseries (Loczy) in Budapest, Hungary and Loczy’s founder, Dr. Emmi Pikler. In a collaboration which extends beyond the Institute’s founding in 1946, Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler have consistently worked to improve infant caregiving practices. Dr. Pikler has been nominated for the Hungarian National Academy of Sciences for her pioneering work on the learning of motor skills on the basis of self-induced movements.
Dr. Pikler’s lecture on the “competent infant” seemed to spark within us a renewed sense of respect and appreciation for the young children in our care. She reminded us that the need for competency is basic to human development, and one which effects later personality development. It is exactly the day-to-day experiences which most influence the child’s feeling of self-esteem and autonomy. Dr. Pikler presented competence as the result of an infant allowed to interact and adapt effectively within an environment. The infant needs to be able to (1) select from the environment and form a schema and plan, then (2) be allowed to initiate a sequence to achieve objectives, and , (3) be able to learn from the experience and formulate new behaviors. Thus, on a practical level, as we re-assess our own infant environments, we need to examine whether our worlds are safe enough to foster and encourage competence.
Magda Gerber’s charismatic presentation of the applicability of the R.I.E. philosophy was welcome reassurance that through respect as a basic guideline, it is possible to watch the competent infant unfold into an authentic adult. She defined the role of the educarer as one who “facilitates the development of an active child who is challenged by problems, enjoys his autonomy,and trusts adults.” Magda left us with the feeling that she understood our dilemmas,”…breast-feed,bottle-feed;wean abruptly, wean gradually, start solids at birth, breast-feed for years;feed according to the clock, feed according to demand; give the pacifier, pull out the thumb;don’t give the pacifier, allow the thumb, both….neither…” As a way of understanding these contradictions, she encouraged us to critically examine current hild-rearing practices in light of those which encourage our own goals and ideals for children.
Ast the conference came to an end, many of us were left with unanswered questions, and the feeling that we wanted still more information. The conference served to provoke challenging and thoughtful discussion among us, and many will return to work with new insights to their day-to-day problems. Yet for some participants, the weekend was only the beginning. The conference proved to be a valued introduction of the R.I.E. philosophy to the infant carer who attended. It was only an introduction, we hope to share much more in the months and years ahead.
(This article was originally published in the Educaring Resources for Infant Educarers. Volume I Number I Winter 1979 by Rhonda Garcia
More than thirty-seven years later R.I.E. continues to share the teachings of Magda Gerber and Dr. Emmi Pikler. For those of us who participated and attended this marvelous conference..The memories are very vivid. Although Magda and Dr. Pikler are no longer with us…their teachings continue to impact the lives of educators, parents and children.
Post by Roseann Murphy