Monday, October 8, 2012

Patience and Partners - The Lessons I Have Learned

In the Full Day Kindergarten classroom, teachers and Early Childhood Educators teach side by side. I have learned so much from my ECE partners and continue to reflect on my teaching practices by bringing in knowledge from their learning and practice.

We have been hosting student teachers and student ECE's in our classroom this year, thus discussing and reflecting even more frequently on our practices and actions. We all feel very strongly about the importance of the teacher/ECE relationship and want to ensure that we share our feelings with the students in our classroom.

The experience of teaching with a team is really eye opening and motivating. I simply can't imagine being in a room without other educators anymore. We balance each other out and build each other up.

I am a very fast paced person...always go, go, go! When children have a new idea I find myself wanting (like they do) to get into it instantaneously. When I watch Cheryl (one of my partners this year), she really truly slows down EVERYTHING. She takes the time to discuss the ideas with the children and she herself takes things slowly.

This couldn't have been more true in the way that she has set up routines in our classroom with us this year. She sometimes sounds like a broken record when reminding children of the expectations - but she is patient and calm...and the children have embraced expectations in a new way.

Transitions are always a challenge in a kindergarten classroom. At lunch time as I finish up a read aloud or focused learning session on the carpet with children, Cheryl slowly filters the children to wash their hands, get their backpack, and find a spot to sit at lunch. We have tried to minimize large group transitions in any way that we can.

On a side note, every transition in our room is met with a SLOW FILTER this year. Going outside, coming inside, beginning or ending lunch...we slowly filter the children a few at a time from one place or activity to another. This takes away the chaos that comes when you send 24 children to the cubby area together. It takes away the frustrations that the children feel when they have to wait for their friends for a long period of time. And it takes away in our room, the behaviours that we previously were seeing.

At lunch time, the children find a spot and wait for all of the other children to find a spot too. Then they begin lunch together. This creates a wonderful sense of community and instills the notion of being patient in the children. The start and end their lunch together.

We have a very structured day in our classroom, with long uninterrupted blocks of play. It always bothers me when teachers talk about how the Kindergarten classroom is "unstructured". In fact, we are quite the opposite! We aren't rigid in our structure, but having a structured and predictable day ensures that children do not feel chaotic, anxious, or stressed out.

When we change our daily structure (for example if it is raining and we can't go outside for Outdoor Play), then we have a discussion with the children and talk about why we are making a change to the day. We talk about how the weather is impacting our daily routines. By explaining changes in the day to children, we are ensuring that they understand why and when things are changing. Changing routines without explaining the process to children takes away from the trust that they build up with you as an adult.

Anyways - I will end this post with some research to back up the thinking and discussions that we have been having about this from my current favourite book!

In Reflecting Children's Lives, the authors state:
"Classroom rules, routines, and arrangement of the environment create the ebb and flow of childhood. Too often our days are focused on getting them ready - to eat, to go outside, to hear a story, to go to school. With this get-the-ready mind-set, we miss the moment of now in childhood and the chance to meet real needs and interests. Research suggests that complex play doesn't emerge until children have been actively engaged for about 30 minutes. In practice this research implies fewer transitions, allowing longer stretches of time for deeper involvement. In a child-centered framework, curriculum is everything that happens - the planned as well as the unplanned activities, routines, transitions, arrivals, and departures." (pg 40).

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