Thursday, January 20, 2011

Loving Hands

If you've been following along, you'll know that my family is in the midst of a big move, relocating our lives from a large house in the Seward Park neighborhood of Seattle, where we've been spreading out for the past 13 years, to a downtown apartment with about half the square footage. It's a major undertaking, one that has required my full-time attention this week. But school must go on and in a cooperative preschool, that means the "teacher assistants" are taking over.

It takes a real man to pull off the pointy princess hat. We tend
to have lots of dads in our classroom.

Each of the families in a co-op are required to not only provide an adult to work in the classroom as an assistant teacher once a week, but they also assume another job to help run the school, such as "maintenance," or "fundraising," or "field trip coordinator."  Teacher's assistant is one of those jobs. Ostensibly, the TA's are to help me out with day-to-day tasks like making play dough, preparing art projects, running minor errands, and sorting art into cubbies, but since I don't typically do a lot of advance planning I usually wind up doing these things myself. The biggest part of the TA job, then, is to take over for me when I have to be away. That's why when "selling" the job at our spring orientation meeting, I say, "It's the easiest job in the school until it's the hardest."

I like seeing the all those adults down on our knees 
amongst the children.

This week, the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday TA's are earning their keep while I manage the big move and by all accounts it's running smoothly. The same thing happened back in November when I went to England for the Earlyarts International UnConference.

But naturally, sometimes our height advantage comes into play.

This is the beauty of co-op. It's why I chose it for my own daughter and it's why I continue to teach in one. Having a roomful of adults who love the children more than makes up for any lack they might have in formal education training, although I might add that several of our parents each year are former, or even current, teachers.

When we're doing it right (e.g., playing with the kids) it's
sometimes hard to tell the adults apart from the children.

It's not terribly disruptive when I'm away because by this time of the year, we're a well oiled machine, every one of the 7-10 parents in the room already having gone through our routines dozens of times. Everyone already knows how things run, what to do, where to find things. The TA's have been watching me do the things I do for months. Yes, they weren't able to open the garden yesterday because I forgot to tell them the trick for moving the sticky dead bolt (force), but that's a minor thing.

Each of us brings different energy, ideas and passions into the classroom
all within the context of how much we love our children. It
makes for an infinitely rich and varied experience.

Of course, it also helps that the children are by now the experts on all things school related. If the parents forget the words to a song or accidentally get the schedule out of order, the kids make sure to set them right. In fact, I usually tell the TA's, "When in doubt, ask one of the children."

Oh yeah, sometimes we're lucky enough to have grandparents in the room with us.
Oh, how I love having grandparents at school -- they really know how to play!

I can't wait to get back to the classroom next week, but I'm resting easy knowing that the children are in the best, most loving hands possible.

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Life with Kaishon said...

I will pray that your move goes smoothly.

Syneloi said...

Grześ tu był i umysłową ucztę spożył za co dziękuje zapraszając na swoje strony.

Ms Debbie said...

I am trying hard to think how I can have this system in my own place. I am a state run program, so I cant require it but I can see how it would be such an advantage. KUDDOS to you for making it work. I love your ideas.

Pam said...

what a wonderful opportunity for the children to really get to know the wonderful adults in their lives...and to see them showing such an interest in the lives of the children. I do wish our children could benifit from this. It's so wonderful to see such loving adults among the children all offering different strengths, backgrounds and beliefs...all there to work together with the children to learn new things.

Barbara Zaborowski said...

You CAN make this work; you just can't require it. My partner and I set up each morning on the assumption that no one else is coming to help. But we've also told our parents (and grandparents and nannies and...) that they're always welcome to come and either just observe or pitch in and help. We have one dad this year who comes once a week. We have a mom who comes frequently. We've had other parents come and stay for the first half hour or so before heading off to work. We have a sign-up calendar for helpers, but everyone also knows that they don't need to sign up to come help. (The calendar is really just to keep the idea in front of them. It is a monthly calendar and we've just started featuring a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon on it, in the hope that reading the cartoon will encourage someone new to sign up.)

jenny said...

The more I learn about the co-operative model, the more I like it Tom. To be able to step away and leave the program in the hands of adults who know and love the kids and who know the program is invaluable.

Susan said...

Teacher Tom,

I am a "fan" of your blog for a while now. I loved your comment about educating WITH the kids.
I am curious; in your view, what type of "professional development" opportunities do you value or look for as an early childhood educator?

Thanks for your time!

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