Sunday, 20 March 2016
That aha moment!
Those who teach preschool or nursery often chat about how we luckily forget just how hard the first month if not the first term is for everyone involved - the staff are exhausted as they introduce a whole new set of children to the routine and rules of the setting and the children have to learn how to get along with a room full of their peers.
But the reward for all this hard work comes when you witness that 'aha moment' when you see a child grab a timer and empty it themselves rather than an adult modelling how to ensure a fair turn, or you watch a couple of children negotiate turns on a piece of equipment with no pushing, shoving or tears!
Over the past few weeks we have added the large hollow blocks and half rounds to the playground, the latter are just little logs cut in half from Cosy that allow the children to create a balance effect with a plank & a half round. They started by walking up the plank and feeling it tip and then lurch to the other end. Some use it to replicate 'surfing' by just balancing on the plank while it's off the ground. Then last week one child discovered that by putting a bottle baby on one end & then jumping on the other they could create a large catapult! Of course the poor bottle baby burst upon impact with the hard standing of the playground & so I suggested they look for something lighter that wouldn't cause any injury if it landed on anyone's head either!
A few years ago one child found a purple, rubber thing in Bear Woods- it soon become known as 'the purple minion egg', in fact it was the inside of a bouncing balance shown in the photo above & came from the main playground.
What impressed me most when I watched a small video taken by another staff member of the game 2 children invented with the minion egg, was the turn taking that was taking place. There was no shouting or fighting but lots of direction from one of the children "No, it's my turn now, you're next" or "Now it's your turn, that's it, well done" etc. lots of great dialogue between the 2 as they had fun sending the minion egg up into the sky - there were lots of giggles too as it bounced back down again.
Turn taking does not come naturally or easily, it does have to taught, it has to modelled again and again and again but most importantly children need to see that it is fair.
I think that many underestimate how important that year in preschool is for all the social skills that are learned. If we bow to the downward pressure or testing young children for academic skills we are losing sight of the importance of their personal, social and emotional development. They need time to learn how to compromise, negotiate and argue with their peers in a safe environment with adults who are constantly modelling turn taking and giving them lots of opportunities to hear how to negotiate a turn until suddenly they begin to employ all these skills for themselves.
I have often said that the third and final term is the most bittersweet, the children are so much more independent and able to fully enjoy being part of a big class and all the exciting play opportunities it provides without all the angst of the first term and coming to grip with being part of a large group and yet it is also sad because as their teacher, I know they are ready to leave me and move onto their next step on their educational journey and I have to start all over again!