Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday SOL What about a class full of thoroughbreds?

It is Tuesday and this is a "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers.  Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.

A couple weeks ago, I read an interview with Lucy Bowen McCauley, who is director of an eclectic group of dancers in the D.C. area...she described them as follows -

"I call them thoroughbreds. You've got 10 different beautiful horses that will run the race differently. You choreograph for them differently. Sometimes to bring out what they're really good at, sometimes to challenge them a little bit in their weak spots."

Since reading this, I have been filled with insight and delight about my own classroom of preschoolers this year.

This is an unusual bunch -
strong and varied wills,
sure of themselves in very different ways,
determined about different things.
They are solitary personalities,
with very little interest (let alone knowledge or "how to") in being together.

I'm not at all sure why they are this way -

perhaps it is developmental, with many still very "two" in age, "all about me,"
perhaps it is birth order, with many firstborns or single children, unaccustomed to having to negotiate or share,
perhaps it is disposition, with many strong introverts, having no real need to play with others.

I'm not sure it matters why they are this way.

As the teacher, I simply need the honest and frank acceptance of who they are as individuals.

I love thinking about them as thoroughbreds.
My preschoolers - pure breed, beautiful, strong horses that will run the race differently.

To repeat,
"You choreograph for them differently."

Love it!

Honestly, thinking about them as thoroughbreds has helped me to
embrace them individually,
rather than rushing to consider them as a whole, as one entity.

I realize my work this year will be to
allow them the freedom of individuality, while
holding them to my expectations of getting along with others,
in hopes that we become a great team together.

This new prism -
"my thoroughbreds" -
has me thinking differently about our day ...

  • I am increasing the activities that can be done by individuals, rather than in small groups. For example, during centers, there are several extra things that are available for one child at a time, or for just two to be together - a tree stump with wire and nails for solitary exploration...easels with room for two total...window gazing in the alley for one or two at a time...story boards for one child at a time...book reading throughout the room.... 
  • I am thinking about the day differently, providing more opportunities for "solo" play or choice, rather than whole group...allowing children to not play together, but to pursue their own interests.   I am purposefully taking children out of the room for solo walks with me, to collect snack or help me refill my tea...offering moments of alone time. (Imagine how hard it must be to spend eight hours a day 'together,' in such a large group of peers, with the constant subliminal text "share with one another, get along with one another, speak up, be together.") I am respectfully allowing them to be alone, if they want to be.
  • Simultaneously, I am ratcheting up my expectation that they participate in our one whole group time each day (morning gathering, when they are strong and fresh, ready to take on the day) - requiring them to be with others, knowing this is their "weak spot" and encouraging them to rise to the challenge.
  • I am weaving in opportunities all day long for children to share about themselves, to learn how they are similar and different from others in the room. I am intentionally helping them make these connections as I work with individual children, "John likes such and such, too...you have this in common..." Slowly but surely, they will begin to see past themselves to others...but, hopefully, with their strong self still very much intact.

My thoroughbreds.
I love them!


Do you know this old song? I've been singing this to my class ...

Over and over,
I'll be a fool for you,
'Cause you've got - personality (Walk) - personality (talk) - personality (Smile) - personality (charm) - personality (Love) - personality 'Cause you got a great big heart Well over -and over I'll be a fool for you Now, now, now 
over and over What more can I do?


  1. Thank you for sharing your friend's quote - and walking it out around the track! I appreciate the bullet points of your "laps" and look forward to thinking about the work I want to do with my own thoroughbreds. I think I've got a couple of wild mustangs....

  2. It touches me to hear you support the individual rather than pushing hard for these children to become a group in almost all activities. What a wise teacher you are, Maureen, to develop things that will support the solo projects until they are ready. Thanks for the analogy-beautiful connection!

  3. This gives me a new perspective on how to help one of my teachers respond to her very busy and unique group of children this year. They are throwing her for a loop and it is time for a shift. Thanks for another beautifully honest post.