Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Masters Of Time

At the end of last school year, the Seattle Public Schools announced that many of their schools were going to be changing their start times – some would be earlier, some later. Since several of our Woodland Park families have older children in the public schools, and the actual start times weren’t going to be announced until the end of summer, we decided last spring to shift our start time from 9:30 a.m. to 9:45 by way of giving everyone more time in the morning in case they needed it.

It was a minor shift, but I struggled with it during our first day back from summer vacation.

Although our school day may appear loosey-goosey from the outside, I’m a firm believer that preschoolers need a consistent, reliable schedule. It’s at first comforting, then empowering to be able to anticipate and even predict what’s next. When a child cries for mommy, one of the most effective ways to sooth him is to talk through the day’s schedule leading up to, “. . . and then mommy comes back.” As kids get older, especially the ones who’ve been with me a couple years, they like to let me know when it’s time to “bang the drum” that signals clean up time, or anticipate my calling them in from outside play by rushing inside before I’ve started the chant, “Preschool children to the top of the stairs.”

I often have parents warn me that their child “isn’t very good with transitions,” and that’s sometimes confirmed during the first couple months of class, but once our schedule becomes ingrained, her reluctance to end one thing and begin another always fades away. She still might object in the rest of her life where schedules tend not to be as predictable, but in preschool she becomes a master of time.

Yesterday’s “slow start” turned out to be an unbalanced combination of veterans and rookies, with only two children in class who weren’t already familiar with the 3-5 routine. And, of course, the day flowed fluidly in spite of my obsessively counting forward and backwards to account for that measly 15 minutes. Charlie and Isak learned that they get to choose when to eat their snack rather than waiting for an official “snack time.” They discovered that there is an extra Circle Time right in the middle of the day. I was proud of how they both followed the lead of their older classmates by leaping right into our curricular centerpiece of clean-up time.

Our second “slow start” day is Wednesday and I’m not anticipating such an easy flow. The veteran to rookie ratio will be 4:9, so Ella, Katherine, Josephine and Luna will have their role-modeling work cut out for them as the 3-year-olds feel the pull back to last year’s Pre-3 routines.

This morning our Pre-3 class has its first “slow start” day. Without the time mastery of older children to guide us, it’s always much more of a challenge to get everyone on board with the schedule. They need to rely on me to coach them through it – at least for the first few months.

At our 3-5 parent orientation meeting, actual public school schedules now in hand, there was talk of re-visting our own start time decision next month. There seems to be a movement toward shifting back to the 9:30 start from prior years. By then, of course, I expect I will have fully adjusted to the 9:45 start-time. It’s already on my mind. People think I’m a loosey-goosey kind of teacher, but I’m really not. Like the kids, I rely on my schedule for comfort and strength.

For those of you concerned about the health of our standard poodle Athena, she’s still moving slowly, but the steroid injection she got yesterday from the vet did wonders and she was even agitating for a walk yesterday evening. Thanks for your words of support and sympathy.

Also, I got my art show installed at the North Seattle Community College library yesterday. It looks great. If you live in the Seattle the library is open to the public, so stop by if you get the chance.

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Unknown said...

I totally applaud schedules for children : ). When I taught Kindergarten if we didn't start at the exact right time, well, let's just say the rest of the day was CrAzY! Hope you have a wonderful year and everyone adjusts well!
PS Very glad the shot was such a help to your dog! : )

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

Oh, I am totally a time nazi and when someone or something throws a wrench into my schedule I fall apart. I could so dig a 9:30 start time though. That sounds heavenly

Glad Athena is doing well. Will you post photos of your art show?