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.