Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Nursery Journey.

As a nursery teacher the hardest months of my job are probably September & October & luckily I tend to forget how hard this period is & am always shocked for those 2 months by hard it all is! Only those who work with the youngest children in the education system can understand how difficult it is settling children into school for the first time - and in our system all 26 start at the same time - because the routine stays the same we as adults can tend to forget how much the children have to grasp in their first few weeks at nursery.
But once the first 2 weeks are over, it becomes a little easier as the routine becomes clearer to the children & they don't need to be shown how everything works e.g. in our class every child has a symbol (this symbol is used to show them which coat hook is theirs, which drawer is for their art work, where their name is for self labeling artwork) & this symbol is also a 'ticket' that is used to show who has had snack & who hasn't. They have to learn to collect this ticket after washing their hands & post it in a box on the snack table. They also have to remember to put their name on all their paintings etc. & we do spend the first few weeks constantly reminding children of these simple tasks, then suddenly after a couple of weeks we usually find it becomes second nature & they only need a gentle reminder ever so often. 

We also spend the first few weeks demonstrating how to use the various egg timers to make sure turn taking is fair - and again after a month or so, we don't even need to suggest getting a timer to settle a dispute over a toy or bike, the children will go & get a timer themselves & moderate its use. 

So suddenly after around 6 -8 weeks of constantly repeating how things work, it seems to all click - I think if the adults were recorded in this time you would hear lots of the following phrases: did you have that first, do you want a turn with that, did you tip that puzzle out, have you put your name on your painting, have to washed your hands, have you got your ticket, do you think you can knock down things you haven't built etc. etc.
But after this period of settling in and I firmly believe that the first term in all about settling in, we begin to see everything settle down and we can really start our learning journey together. After the break at Hallowe'en there is a real shift in the class as the adults & children begin to really get to know each other, trust each other & the longer day begins for everyone.
We use Board Maker to help show the routine for each day for the whole class.
At this stage it all seems to fall into place and the routine begins to take shape, a basic day runs the same way as much as possible so the children are confident about how the day flows and comfortable about what happens next. I attended a conference a few years back at which the keynote speaker talked about how the whole of the first term should be about settling in & allowing children time to pick up the routines & to learn how to tidy-up. I came back to school & we revamped our whole way of tidying-up - we have the children split into 3 groups of 9 & they tidy-up in these small groups with an adult actually showing them how to put things back properly rather than all 27 trying to clean up at the same time. By the time it comes to 3rd term the children are old hands at keeping the classroom tidy & putting resources back where they belong.

3rd term is the easiest term in classroom management terms but it is also a bit sad as you know the children are getting ready to move on to the next stage in their educational journey. But it is essentially the term that we as adults can sit back a lot more & watch as the children move around the playground or classroom with very little need for adult input to clear up disputes etc. It is also the time when the adults can spend a little more time with small groups of children without having to worry about what the other children are getting up to!

Sometimes it takes an outsider or substitute teacher coming in to make us realise just how smoothly the day runs when the children are in a good routine & most times a sub will leave a not to say - 'Your hard work really shows in the way the children are in such a good routine' - it's nice to hear this as sometimes when you are in the moment you don't actually realise that what you do is as a result of hard work.
Teachers normally only get feedback when they have done something wrong or that needs improvement so it is lovely to hear positive feedback like this I received from a lovely sub teacher who covered for me back in October when I went to Iceland, so this was early days when the children were actually only together as a class of 27 one week. 

"At the start I kept asking "Are they allowed to do that?". By today I was in total awe of all that you and your wonderful  staff have achieved.
Your have created a child centred environment with lots of natural stimuli.  I don't wish to patronise you but you should be very proud of the work that you and your staff do and the very positive impact you have on these children's lives."


  1. As a parent who has recently had 2 kids through your nursery i can see the results term by term having a positive impact on the way they interact at home too it was the year spent in nursery where i seen my two wee men mature the most and the eldest now in p3 still quotes examples from his time spent there. on parent teacher meetings i learned new ways to deal with their individual personalities and even have my own waterproof outdoor clothes now. I as a parent learned alot too. i cant praise the experience enough

    1. Joanne, your comment means a lot & on days when things go wrong or are difficult, I'll remember your very kind words. Looking forward to having you back again soon as a Granny!

  2. As a parent, I'm grateful for the routines and good behaviors taught to them at the nursery. I'd like to be as consistent as their teachers - but find I lack the parental discipline. I love the photo of your outdoor playground - what a great place to learn and be a kid!

    1. Thanks Charlena, I think home has to be less rigid than school, it's where children can relax after a day of conforming!

  3. Kierna,
    Your children are fortunate indeed!
    I love when I see my children reminding and helping one another with routines. We as humans have a need for organization and structure, and this starts early.Young children learn structure so quickly. I believe this is something Piaget taught us?
    Your comment about cleaning up in small groups, AND helping the children is great!

    1. Hi Brenda, the small groups work really well & the teachers up the school commented on the difference they could see in the children we had done this with compared to previous years.

  4. Kierna, I was grinning ear to ear on Saturday morning! So pleased Harry will be part of the nursery in September and this post has really helped explained the progressions that will be in store for him through the year

    1. Delighted it worked out this year, really looking forward to having you on board as a parent too.


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