Sunday, March 04, 2012

I Know Why I Get Out Of Bed Each Morning

This is by no means a universal truth, but in most preschools, most years, when left to their own devices, the art table is dominated by girls, while the block area is dominated by boys. This was the case at Woodland Park last year. This year, not at all, even in our 3-5's class where the older kids tend to divide quite a bit by gender as they seek the extremes in their exploration of what it means to be female or male.

Naturally, the kids are still dividing themselves up by gender in their play, it's just falling out differently this year, leaving our art table and block area to be largely gender neutral zones.  (Actually, to be honest, this class is just really not that into art at all; our oldest Pre-K kids are almost all "mess" averse and so steer clear when they see something that might involve hand washing. For instance, they've been eagerly anticipating a paper mache project for months as they prepare for their edition of the Pre-K play, but when we broke out the paste last week they all stood around and watched the adults do the mixing.)

By the same token, the Pre-3 class, that roomful of suns around which the universe revolves, while aware of gender, is only just now, 5 months into our school year, really beginning to play together in a sustained, cooperative way. They're aware of gender, especially the older girls, but it hasn't yet turned into a regular gender divide.

But a group of these girls, all either just turned 3 or almost there, did take over the block area last week, en masse, almost an accidental gender divide, building a castle in all its princess-y glory. I'm not exactly sure where it came from, we'd started with cardboard blocks and dinosaurs, but the box of scarves found its way to were we were playing, the dinos got pushed aside, and this creative process took over.

This might be the largest construction we've managed without adult participation up to this point in the year given that a Pre-3 class is typically populated with a large contingent of unrepentant fans of "knocking it down." In fact, several of our usual building crashers participated in this careful creation, lending a pair of the dozen hands or more that worked to make this piece of architecture.

Oh, this is why I teach, to be there when children come together on their own, to do great things together. This is why we have schools, this is why it's important for groups of children to share a space day after day, to form the bonds, to develop the skills, to do what it takes to make a community. This is what most of us will spend our entire lives doing, both for fun and profit, working cooperatively in small groups with our fellow humans. When it happens here in our Pre-3 class among children just emerging from the age of parallel play, just beginning to really be able to put themselves in the shoes of others, feeling perhaps for the first time the expansive joy of we, which is always greater than the introspective joy of me, I know why I get out of bed each morning.

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Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

I think you have a very big heart, and a great soul! :)
Thanks for providing such moments of good cheer!

ECE Talk said...

I am a director of a growing preschool in northern MI and my Pre-K teacher turned me on to your blog recently. This is one of my favorite posts by far, but we find all of them to be so inspiring and encouraging. Thank you so so much for sharing the joys of your school!

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