Saturday, September 7, 2013

Beginnings are hard

This morning, I feel as if this blog post could write itself - that I might actually get in the way of it! Words are bursting from me, waking me in the middle of the night to put themselves into sentences and paragraphs. Ah, yes, it is September! The school year is underway and my "muse" - preschoolers - are here, front and center, waking me from my summer writing slumber and giving me so many writing ideas, inspiration, possibility....

I woke up thinking about how hard, how all around hard, the beginning of the school year is in preschool - whether you are the child, the family, or the teacher! There is so much to figure out, so much to much possibility for miscommunication, mis-steps, "do-overs."

No matter where these preschoolers were before - at home, daycare, other - the fact remains that they were then in the second year of life and are now just stepping into their third year of life. Which means, in a nutshell, that they are leaving behind the "It's all about me, all the time, I am the most important!" and stretching themselves into, "Oh, hey, you exist! This world is bigger than I realized! I want friends!"

Three year olds are on the cusp of being social, of seeing themselves as part of a larger community.

This is huge, developmentally.

The first days of school are exhausting for a preschooler, as she is immersed in the new teachers and many new classmates ("How do I make friends? How do I fit in?"), new routines ("What comes next? When does my family come back? Wait, I can't do that now?"), new activities ("Is that fun? Dare I try that? Am I able?"). As you can imagine, a lot of different emotions and feelings come up...and many of these are brand new to the child, since the very experience of being in a new classroom with peers is so new.

How do you - an adult - respond to new, challenging things? Imagine - a new work situation, some new, huge issue for which you are now responsible. Often, as adults, we face the new challenge head on but find ourselves slipping up in other ways - perhaps we eat or drink a little more, or stop exercising, or find ourselves impatient or brusque with loved ones.

How do these preschoolers respond to new, challenging things? Yes, they seem to have setbacks. The talkative child goes quiet at school. The potty-trained child wets herself frequently at school. The sweet, predictable child goes wild at nap time, seeming defiant.

I know it is very hard on families to see these see their child regress upon entering the preschool class or do things that they've never seen the child do before.  A big part of my job as preschool teacher is to help the families process these transitions. (I guess this blog post is one aspect of this help - trying to give my reflections on this oh so normal, hard process of starting preschool.)

For me, as teacher, it is also a very hard time of year...

as I learn about, plan and organize for, juggle,
children's interests, habits, special needs, allergies,
family concerns, situations, interests, communications,
school schedules, meetings with colleagues, specials, playground times, fire drills,
mentoring and guiding my Teaching Resident, giving instruction on two levels - to both her and the children,
creating lesson plans that soothe, welcome, bring joy, engagement,

all the while,
trying to,
first and foremost,
welcome each child and family individually,
helping each one feel cherished, respected, and safe,
building - as quickly and solidly as possible - a relationship of trust.

Yet, knowing full well that relationships take time.

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