What an exciting first week with the 2-year-olds. They all came in ready to get to work, and while a few of them clung to mommy a bit at first, they all eventually got their legs under them, their hands busy, and their brains engaged.
Very impressive, although I expect coming weeks will be a bit more rocky as parents experiment with leaving their kids on their own at school and we begin to deal with separation anxiety.
I’m always a little shocked by how little they are, with their fat diaper-bottoms and waddling walks. When I dismissed last year’s Pre-3 class in the spring they were big, confident 3-year-olds. It’s during these first few weeks that the past and present exist simultaneously for me – I see them how they are, but through the prism of how I know they will be nine months from now.
Two-year-olds are notoriously individual suns around whom the entire universe revolves and that’s exactly what we experienced last week, a roomful of brilliant suns, delightfully unaware of the brilliance of the other blazing suns playing beside them at the play dough table. The Pre-3 year of preschool, in large measure, is about learning to live in a crowded universe in which space and resources are limited. It’s about learning that you can only knock down your own block building. It’s about understanding that if someone else is holding something, you can’t just take it. It’s about accommodating the person who is coming down the stairs when you want to go up. These are not things that most of the children I met last week are capable of understanding. Yet, they are all things they will understand 9 months from now.
The development of 2-year-olds is all over the charts. Some come through the door prepared to discuss the relative differences between a triceratops and a diplodocus, while others have only just mastered the two-word sentence. Some scoot down the stairs on their bottoms, while we need to keep an eye on others to make sure they don’t climb one of the trees in the courtyard and make an escape over our 7-foot fence. Some are already showing signs of being ready to move beyond parallel play, while others seem entirely unaware of the existence of other children. At times the developmental differences are so extreme that they almost seem like they’re different species, yet it all falls well within the realm of “normal.” As the year goes on these difference won’t entirely disappear, but they’ll become less and less pronounced until, 9 months from now, they’ll all seem much more alike than they are different.
Two-year-olds tend to be very adult focused. Even when they have something to say to a peer, it’s often done by way of the nearest adult. Within a few weeks, as the children grow more comfortable with me, I’ll spend much of my time in the classroom wearing a “skirt” of children. Everywhere I go, everything I do, it will be in the company of two or more children. If I have to leave the classroom for a moment, they’ll stand by the door waiting for me to return. It might appear that they are playing “together,” but in reality it will be many individual kids playing with Teacher Tom at the same time. But as the year progresses, they’ll start to find one another. Nine months from now, I will able to spend extended periods of our free play time leaning against a wall just watching the kids play together.
There is no other year during which children change more than they do between the ages of 2 and 3. It’s an amazing 9-month adventure. I’m incredibly lucky to be along for the ride.