Friday, April 24, 2015

Toddlers and Timelines and Letting Go

Cohorts 7 and 9 (combined in March) have come together into a beautiful, silly, sweet, curious group of children.  It's been an exciting transition over the past two months as the children have gotten to know each other and their new room.  We have seen old friendships strengthen and grow to include new friends, as brand new bonds form as well.

As teachers, Elizabeth and I have also been transitioning - figuring out what works and what doesn't in our new space, with the larger group, communicating frequently about what is going great and areas in which we want to improve.  Being in a new set of circumstances gives me a unique opportunity to reflect on my habits and tendencies and reflect on next steps for myself as a teacher.

Something that has been important for me as a teacher since I started at Tumbleweed last July has been letting go of the importance of a timeline or a schedule.  While there are certain things that mark our days that must happen with regularity every day (meals and snacks, diaper changes / toileting, naps!), we have the luxury to allow each of those processes, and every other part of our day, to take all the time it needs.

With 8-9 children in our room everyday, each bringing in his or her own mood and temperament, sometimes we zip through snack, throw our shoes on, and get playing outside in no time.  Sometimes, each bite of apple and pretzel at the snack table needs to be discussed, and then savored, and then everyone spills water and needs to find a towel to slowly mop it up, and then we all need to stretch our legs before putting shoes on, and we need to talk about our shoes for several minutes before opening up the velcro and slowly putting our toes in, and then decide what coat to wear, because all of our coats are interesting, and then maybe back down the stairs one at a time while counting each stair, and by the time we are outside, it's not all that long from time to head inside for lunch.

There is a part of my brain that goes a little crazy on that second type of days.  A part that is saying, "We should have been outside 23 minutes ago - how on earth did this take so long?!"  I am learning to tell that part of my brain that it is all going to be okay, because more important than the schedule we have pinned to our wall is the schedule that is internal to each child in our care.  And because we have the freedom of time, we can allow snacks, diaper changes, transitions, and activities to take place on toddler-time, which varies wildly.

Yesterday was one of those days where everything took an amazing amount of time.  All nine children were at school that day, playing, making discoveries, having discussions, and doing the work of being toddlers.  I think that Elizabeth and I got swept up in it as well, because once we got outside in the morning, we both checked the time and laughed out loud.  How did it get to be so late?  We made sure lunch would be ready on time, so that nap could happen as scheduled, but other than that, we let the schedule go, trusting the children to show us how much time they needed.

Later that day, when the children had woken up from nap, there was a quiet and relaxed joy in the air.  Kids were spread out all over the room, a few still relaxing on their nap mats, others already up and engaged in silly play.  There were soft voices and giggles and smiles all around.  I looked up at the clock and laughed again - it was well past the time we usually have nap mats picked up and have moved on to the next thing.  We then, slowly, began working on cleaning up the room together, and I thought about how, even though snack would be a bit later that afternoon than usual, I wouldn't give up that relaxed and easy time for anything.

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