We are almost two weeks into our latest adventure at WT North Pre-K. This class of small scientists has been flowing right into the new routines. We’ve been slowly introducing materials and tools, allowing the children to become comfortable with the use and care of each before adding something new. As they play in this novel setting, we’ve had many opportunities to observe and wonder along with them.
The first few days of school are filled with risks. All of us, from the Pre-K student to the most senior teacher, feel this. Our children have to navigate a new set of routines, manage new personality dynamics, make friends, keep friends, decipher the emotional tone of their new class, and figure out who they will be for the next few days. Taking acceptable risks when steering through all of this can be daunting. Grown-ups can put it into words, “What if I fail?” Children usually aren’t able to put it so succinctly.
“Risk” has a bad rep most of the time. People generally relate this word with failure or danger. Now try to refocus your lens. Instead, imagine risk as possible variables in an experiment. True, one needs to weigh the danger (emotional, social, physical, or otherwise) inherent in the particular component, yet, without testing variables, we cannot evaluate the effectiveness of our behavior.
In class, a child chooses whether or not these risks are worth it:
- Waiting for a peer to speak to them first
- Waiting for a teacher to call on them
- Yelling/Calling out the answers
- Speaking up for their own rights (i.e. I don’t like this game. I don’t want chase you.)
- Asking to go to the bathroom
- Saying goodbye to a parent
- Raising a hand during meetings
- Attempting to write their name
- Drawing a picture
- Joining a group or single friend in play
- Making a mark on a piece of paper
We want our children to be comfortable taking the risks that promote growth. It is for this reason that we create an environment that welcomes mistakes, experiments, discussion, and observation. All of the children in our room are capable of great things. We want to make sure they are willing to build the attempts to get them there.
For more on risk, persistence, and grit see Forbes’ 5 Characteristics of Grit — How Many Do You Have?
Whoo! We did it. We made it through the first two days of school. The children were all patient and polite while we spent the first two days introducing them to the basics of room and materials management. Yesterday we were all a about blocks and the kitchen. Today, the loft was the MVP (most valuable plaything).
Outside, there was quite a gathering at the sandbox following its introduction yesterday. You might have also noticed that your child came home with an extra quart of sand in his or her shoes. We also learned how to walk “the circuit”, climb on rocks, swing on the swings and hang on the low monkey bars.
The students have been having lots of fun and we’re learning many, many routines that will help the days run smoothly. By 11:30, all of the children look ready for a nap. Next Monday we will begin our regular schedule. Please expect your child to be tired and possibly irritable for the first few days to weeks of school. Beginning new routines and meeting new friends is much more stressful than we usually credit. Patience, love, and consistency will get your child through this exciting time.
If your child is buying a school lunch next week, please remember to fill out and submit the online lunch order form by Sunday night.
If you plan on picking up your child in car line at the 2:30 0r 3:15 dismissal, please remain inside your car and we will bring your child to you. If your child needs help buckling please pull into a parking space or forward to the front of the campus center to get out of the car and assist. This helps our line move quickly and smoothly.
We have been quite busy the last few weeks learning the myriad of routines and procedures involved in a Pre-K student’s daily life. Following the Responsive Classroom approach, we slowly and intentionally model every possible action taken on within our classrooms. This includes everything from how to hold a pair of scissors to what a listening body looks, feels, and sounds like.
We begin the class year with almost all of the manipulatives put away and the shelves covered. In this manner, we can slowly introduce each type of material and guide the children on safe uses and clean up strategies. Outside play routines and materials are handled in the same manner. We have found that by dedicating the first few weeks of school to setting up and practicing routines, the rest of the year flows much more smoothly.