By Cindy Finch
We are soon to enter a time of settling at The Children’s School—children and families are developing a sense of routine about the school days, the parent-toddler families arrived this week to begin their program year, our Fall Carnival is just around the corner, and, soon, the leaves on our North End trees will begin to change colors and fall into the playyard as a beautiful reminder of the change of seasons. School isn’t starting anymore—its here and we’re all hunkering down to face whatever the school year brings.
As I observe in classrooms and talk with teachers I am aware of how rich children’s experiences are during this settling period—already. Learning classmate’s names, letting new adults help, speaking up in a group, creating something from blocks, negotiating for a chance to use one certain playdough tool, trying to spell a word that is just the one you need to get the idea down on paper, and taking on a new physical challenge on the playyard—each of these experiences represent significant school events that we celebrate for your children.
In many cases, the tasks of a child at school and those at home are different, and often they bring differing responses from adults. Does it make sense to you when you see a teacher responding to your child in a way different from your own response? All of us respect the parent-child relationship and never consider that we are replacing you or competing with you in our interactions with your child. Young children need the absolutely unwavering love that they experience from parents. They need to experience that they are “the best in the west” (as I occasionally referred to my own children when they were much younger) in the eyes of their parents. This total, under-the-skin love that parents hold for their children is deep, enduring, protective, and very different from teaching.
A teacher can watch and listen with an objective eye and ear while a child moves into position at the top of the fire pole or begs to be lifted into a climbing tree or struggles to lift a hollow block or can’t quite get the pedal to move on a trike. If you can’t be objective about these situations with your child, please don’t feel alone. No parent wants a child to struggle when we can help with a push, a hint, or a lift. A teacher’s role, however, is to give a child some verbal instruction, a description of what seems to be working well for others, or a reminder that “someday you’ll be able to do that when your body is ready.” We hold a deep understanding, as teachers, that if a child can achieve some of these challenges at a more individualized, developmental pace, the sense of accomplishment will be internal, sincere, and deep, and the child will be safer in taking on the challenge from beginning to end. Development has so much to do with strength and balance—not our adult strength and balance, but helping a young child find it for herself or himself.
Next month we will have parent-teacher conferences. Collect your questions for teachers and ask them. Teachers don’t mind talking about why they do what they do—really. And we will learn from you too. As we get to know your child through your eyes, our teaching practices will become even more intentional and specific.
Enjoy these settling months. Establish your own pace as a family during the months ahead, feel welcomed and included as a family at TCS, and join us in appreciating your child’s school experience—each of us with our own perspective and our own unique ways of relating to and understanding your children. It may look different at times, but it all fits together in a way that benefits children. And that’s what matters most of all.