Saturday, 16 May 2015

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

In any given day a nursery teacher has to make a lot of decisions on whether something is an acceptable use of resources or not. Every individual will have their own style of deciding whether something is allowable or not, mine usually involves whether it will ruin an expensive resource or end up costing more money to replace. 
For any teacher who allows the children to have total free rein in the classroom or playground and that allows resources to be moved around from station to station, I have to say I take my hat off to you, I am all for child led play but when it comes to resources that I know cost a lot of money and can't be replaced easily is lost or broken, I draw a very clear line on acceptable use. Therefore you will hear me telling children to take toys back to the table where they had been set out on rather than carrying them around the room or playground. But there are of course other larger items that can be moved about. Generally the smaller or more expensive the item the less inclined I am to allow it to move from its original place!
I don't know about anyone else but sometimes it seems that a group of children are great about using lots of resources but terrible about putting them back at the end of play - this is probably more true outdoors than indoors. It can seem easier to just pick things up myself and put them back but then how will the children ever learn this skill if an adult always does it?
On Friday I was faced with such a decision - one child took a bucket and spade from the sand pit over to our forest area and began to gather up a load of bark chips from the forest floor. I quickly assessed that this was an acceptable use of the bucket and spade, he told me he was building a new road and soon he had a whole road crew working alongside him. Then they began to move out of the forest area into the wider playground with their buckets of bark chips, I made a decision to say 'No, the bark chips must stay in the forest area' as I knew they would end up leaving a trail of bark chips all over the playground and we need them to stay in the forest area to maintain that forest floor feel. I did however move a red top over into the forest area for them so they could continue to fill it up and this allowed their play to evolve as they moved onto cooking with the bark chips. Inevitably one child then wanted to add water to the top to mix in with the other dry ingredients. Another decision had to be made - the rule in my setting is they must wear rain clothes (waterproofs) if they want to play with water. So I explained that if he wanted water he needed to get on his rain gear but as the majority didn't want to do this, when he got his rain gear on, I then had to direct him to the mud kitchen for his wet play. 
The reason we ask children to wear their waterproofs to play with water is that we have 28 children and if even 4-5 get wet during play it is a big deal to get them changed so it is just much easier if they are properly dressed from the start.
After an hour of so of intense play from two groups in the forest area and mud kitchen, they all moved off to different play of course just leaving all the buckets and spades lying where they had been playing. So before they got their shoes back on I asked the children who had been engaged in this play to go and gather up the buckets and spades and take them back to the sand. 
As a nursery teacher, I am constantly challenged by the children in my class and my practice has to evolve with their needs but I don't see any harm in having some boundaries of acceptable use of resources in place.

4 comments:

  1. I know what you are describing. I want to encourage exploration and investigation. But I feel some boundaries are needed, too. I think you have described what I think - responding to each situation as it arises and being flexible. Sometimes things can travel or develop in a different way. Sometimes things need to stay in a specific area. I often have to rely on "what feels right" for the moment. It's not very scientific or easily described - but that's the best I can do. A good post that describes what teachers must all do .

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  2. I'm learning a lot about how to form a system, how to follow through with policies and still keep my head.
    I never put much thought into the wet suit bit...I want to start implementing things like this to keep my hands free to help them play, not just cleaning up all the time.
    Thanks Kierna...I needed this.

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  3. I'm learning a lot about how to form a system, how to follow through with policies and still keep my head.
    I never put much thought into the wet suit bit...I want to start implementing things like this to keep my hands free to help them play, not just cleaning up all the time.
    Thanks Kierna...I needed this.

    ReplyDelete
  4. So refreshing. Having followed you for a few years now, I also want to say that I appreciate how you plan a measured approach when introducing new materials (like sticks and the hollow blocks). The boundaries plus the methodical introduction of materials has got to be a win/win scenario for the children! This means that there is a balanced approach that does not overwhelm the children while still giving them plenty of room for exploration. In the meantime, this is why a good night's sleep each night helps so much -- gives us plenty of energy to make those split-second decisions for when to step back and when to step in.

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