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Invisible Lines

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The doorway the site of many invisible lines in our schools and programs many many unsaid but established guidelines. Some classrooms a child walks across that threshold and they know they are safe and cared for. Some classrooms children walk across that threshold and they know they must leave the person they are aside. Some thresholds only allow exit if they stand quietly in a perfectly straight line. Some thresholds demand joy upon exiting or entering. The guidelines are clear to the members of that class, program and/or school.

The thresholds don’t just speak to children though. The threshold speaks to parents as well. Sometimes it speaks to parents far more loudly and clearly then the children.  It says drop your child off here.  It tells them not to cross. That past this invisible line is only a place for children and educator to participate. YOUR PARTICIPATION does not matter! You are not welcome. I believe it says these things unintentionally sometimes but sadly it says these things.

I know this because I was once one of those educators who at one time put an invisible line up. I thought my job was to build a relationship with the child not the parents. I thought my job was to focus only on the child between drop off and pick up. This invisible line was supported by policies and procedures in parent handbooks as well.  You must drop off your child by 9:30 a.m. It was also supported by how rooms were set up. Sign in sheets were right by the door. This myth that our jobs were easier if parents just dropped off their children and left was a truth, not just a theory.

I practiced it as truth but I didn’t believe it.  So eventually I started to question it. How can we ask parents to trust us when they don’t know us? How can we welcome families into our program? How can we erase those invisible lines?

When I arrived at Moss Rock Preschool I wanted to establish my pedagogy of relationships and listening. I had a question of inquiry How can our preschool program create community? So I developed practices that encouraged that.  These will sound terribly simplistic. I greeted every person entering our preschool at the beginning of the day. I used their names.  I asked parents how they were doing. I would ask personal directed questions like “How was your boat trip this weekend?” At the end of the day  I greeted them the same way. I would share stories of our day. I would open the door to our class a few minutes early inviting families to come in and participate. I would point out when there were new narratives in the room and invite them to read them. I would throw preschool parties.   The sign in was put in the middle of the room inviting parents to come in.

Today I feel like we have a great community within our preschool. It is my hope that what our threshold says is you are all welcome here.

The Clay House

IMG_2236A grandfather sits on a child’s chair, his legs straddled comfortably so he can reach the child size table. He is working with the clay on the table, rolling it, patting and shaping it. He builds a small slab structure, makes a roof, adds details, texture. His grand daughter sits beside him working on her own clay creation. Mostly they are silent, but now and then they share a joke and a smile.

Every day this older gentleman comes to this drop in program. Every day he brings his two grandchildren, sits with them, talks with them, watches them. Occasionally he finds someone who speaks Cantonese who he can chat with, but mostly he remains silent, smiling.

His grandson, perhaps 18 months old, grins as he pushes a small chair around the room. The grandfather keeps an eye on him, but so do the others in the room. A mom offers a steadying hand when the chair begins to tip. The grandfather, still immersed in his clay building doesn’t notice.

The clay house is finished, and the grandfather places it in the centre of the table. I gesture with my camera, a photo? He nods, and I snap a couple of shots. I show him the photos on my camera and we both laugh with pleasure. Later a boy takes up a spray bottle and gently sprays the clay house, watching closely as the mist envelopes the house, making the clay glisten.

No words are spoken in any of these moments, they were unnecessary. The clay, camera, water, adults and children all came together, encountered one another, and spoke in many ways. Just not verbal ways.

 

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Bears, Broken Glass, and the Obvious Question

What do you remember from your childhood about playing outside?

Some educators and I have been talking about this and we’ve been writing down our stories;

As a child we would break glass bottles and then use the pieces as ‘covers’ for our flower and leaf arrangements…

There was a weeping willow tree that we used as a fort, we played in it for hours, we all knew we just needed to be home for dinner….

My brothers and I would use left over construction materials to build forts in the forest. We were told to make a lot of noise while we played there to keep the bears away…..

We used a rope to swing over a stream, but if you fell in you stayed wet all day, no matter what the season…..

We played hide and seek with all the neighbourhood kids and designated nine back yards as the game territory….

This leads me to think about discussions Danielle and I have with educators around rules, specifically the “slide rule”, you know the one I mean: no going up the slide, feet first coming down the slide, come down on your bottom please!

Danielle and I use this rule as a starting point for discussion, and boy, do we get discussion! Educators want to keep kids safe, they want to help avoid conflict, they want little kids to feel safe among big kids so they have the slide rule.  All with the very best of intentions.

But it seems to me that we might be missing something when we create these rules, we miss that fact that kids can negotiate, that they they can take care of little kids, that falling off the slide might be worth the benefits of the great fun of climbing up it.

Reflecting back on our own childhoods might be a way begin to rethink some of the rules we have. Relative to broken glass and bears a slide is pretty tame!

Let me ask the obvious question…..did anyone ever tell you how to use the slide when you were a kid?

 

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Weekend Links

Its been an exciting week for us. We found out last Sunday that we had been shortlisted for two Canadian Weblog Awards, Best Education Weblog and Best New Weblog. We are honoured to have made it this far. We are in some very good company. To check out the other short listed nominees head over to Ninjamatics.

It also seems to be an exciting time in our province for Education. There are some wonderful pilot programs starting here. A couple weeks ago in our Weekend Links we shared a story about a Kindergarten program in Invermere that takes place in a retirement home. Here on the South Island we will have a Nature Kindergarten that will have a Kindergarten Teacher and Early Childhood Educator working collaboratively. This project is the collaboration of many passionate people and organizations they have a blog up documenting their process. Another exciting education story to come out of our beautiful province is the story of School District 43 where they will have Reggio Inspired Program for Kindergarten to Grade 5. What an exciting time!

Weekend Links

Learning to take Risks ~ Learning for Life

Seeds ~ Tree House City, a blog by a seven year old who loves to draw comics.

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow ~  Stomping in the Mud

Think About Painting  Light ~ Turtlewings

We still have snow here on the West Coast. So we have been building snowmen, making snow angels and drinking hot cocoa. 

What is your favourite snow time activity?

upside down snow angel

Let in the Wonder

This morning we woke up to snow falling. It was marvellous. Let me explain snow and Victoria for those who are not familiar with this area. It snows if you’re lucky a handful of days in the year. It doesn’t stay cold enough usually for it to last longer then a day or two. For instance there has actually been snow on the ground when I woke up the last couple of days, by noon though its gone. This morning though there was a lovely thick blanket of snow on the ground and the large fluffy flakes falling from the sky. It was beautiful.

Do you know what was even more beautiful? Watching my daughter look out the window with absolute wonder. She was awestruck. It was so amazing to watch I didn’t even grab my camera. I just watched her in silence.

The thing about snow is it brings the wonder out in me. I don’t see if very often. Its not part of my daily life.  When at preschool I am the one building snowmen, snow forts and snow angels. I lie down with the kids and watch the flakes fall.

 

When a snow day was called I would still go out. Snow brings a silence and stillness to the world that is like no other. It covers the world in a blanket of beauty and everything sparkles.  Like Kim said in her post Playfulness snow brings out the playfulness in everyone.

Me and my bestie on a snow day.

When it snows my friends and I go out and play. Like play dates for adults. I don’t know if snow was a more regular thing in Victoria if this would always be the case. If we would take snow for granted but for now we play and let the wonder in.

 Well I must go! Going to have a snow ball fight with my friends and make snow angels with my daughter.  Wishing all my preschool friends the joyful wonder that snow brings!