On August 8th, I should be able to get in to MMO to start setting up my classroom for the fall. I'm very excited about this. I'd like to make the room cozier for my little people than I remember it being. But I also need to get an idea of the bulletin boards in the space, the toys that are available, etc.
I'm teaching 2 1/2-3 year olds this year five mornings a week, and I have between 8 and 12 students every day from the list I was given. I want to make sure to chart their growth and development from the time they enter my room until the time they're ready to progress to the next level. Today, I purchased some binders and some fun foam letters to design progress books for them that I will hand back to the parents at the end of the year of everything their child explored, learned and discovered while in my care.
I ran into a parent the other day who started to talk about how parents trust teachers with their most precious cargo, and that it's a big thing for parents to let go. As a parent, I totally understand this. As a teacher, I feel honored and I do not take that responsibility lightly.
But what I really like about my job is that I get to provide an environment that is different from home. Kids aren't force fed anything at my school and they don't just sit in front of a TV all day. They're introduced to different concepts through exploration and what they get out of it is a secure sense of who they are, the community they're a part of and how the world works. In short, they get a sense of wonder that goes along with the desire to want to learn.
I know that in my short time doing observations in other schools and in-home care centers that folks often have issues implementing the Creative Curriculum. It takes the old idea of lesson planning for kindergarten prep and turns it on its head. But on the other hand, research in early childhood education has shown time and time again that a child-centered method where they explore the world through play helps develop inquisitiveness and social skills needed to be successful in elementary classrooms. At the same time, personally, I think the success regarding all curriculums really depends on the responsiveness of the teacher. If I have a child that excels at verbals and word skills, I want to hep develop experiences for them to help them get to the next level. If I have a child that can climb a mountain, I make sure we get enough gross motor. It's a giant balancing act to make sure that everyone gets chances at not only using their strengths but being able to get the confidence to try and work on things they might not excel at. X-man has been a wonderful example of how to encourage the willingness to try -- and not be good at something.
This week he is at Lego camp. My child loves to build, but he likes to play with his creations in an imaginary based Lego City kind of world. The stories he comes up with are highly detailed and the characters develop over time. Some bad guys become good guys. Some get married. Some always fight -- "because they're brothers." He's working out things in his head.(And he's very sad that some of the Lego people at the Rec Center are missing faces because they've been played with so much.)
But at Lego camp they've introduced something new to him that hasn't been part of his early childhood experience -- "timed events." You now have 20 minutes to build "insert building idea here."
X-man doesn't just dig into Legos and start building. He wants to talk about it. He wants to come up with a story line that would require an idea. And I can see that the idea of a timed build is a good introduction for what is likely to come in the next few years -- timed test taking.
But he started crying about it when he got in the car today, when I asked him how his day was. He said he tried not to get upset about it, but often times he feels nervous about the timed build challenges. When we got home, we played the Carnival Games Wii game that we got from the library for a bit. And every time there was a timed "practice" he'd ask me to play a different carnival game.
I said no, and kept playing. And there were a few games that I was terrible at, a few I was excellent at and a ton that I was mediocre at and needed practice. "It's okay that you lost?"
"Yes, because I had fun trying, and I want to try again and get better. If I practice I will likely improve, but I still may never be the best, and that's okay. I feel good about myself for trying."
I'm hoping it sinks in. Just like I'm hoping that I'm able to help all my students be able to navigate that change from playing side by side to interactive play this year. It's a big development, and some will come to the idea of group play much better than others. I guess I'm just more sensitive to it after watching X-man.
At bedtime last night we read, "A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever" about two friends who stay at one boy's grandparents house to go to nature camp. The grandpa is a huge fan of Antarctica and tries to get the boys to go to a museum with him to see the penguin exhibit before camp, but they refuse -- instead playing with the air mattress they sleep on, rough housing, playing video games, watching TV and eating banana waffles whenever they're not in camp (which they refer to a lot as "stand around camp"). It's a very cute book, especially the ending, where all of the ideas of Antarctica that the grandfather would try to introduce to them, but that they wouldn't actually play with are suddenly of interest their last night. And as the grandparents snooze on the couch, the boys create a model of Antarctica using materials around them -- and you should see the grandfather's face in the morning when he realizes how smart these boys were using driftwood, rocks and seashells. :-)
X-man and I agreed that it's a very awesome book and it made us both want to go to the beach. Lucky for him a week from today, that's exactly where we'll be headed.