Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Dirt In My Brassiere"

If you've been keeping track of this little corner of blog-space for any length of time, you know that I'm a cooperative preschool evangelist, ready at the drop of a hat to tout the wonders and benefits of our model of early childhood education, especially when it's combined with a multi-aged classroom and a progressive, play-based curriculum.

This weekend Cheryl, the mother of Elliott (who is now a kindergardener in a cooperative primary school) and Violet (a current student in our Pre-3 class) wrote me the following note after a morning of managing our sensory table which hosted a mixture of sand, coffee grounds and yellow corn meal. This really captures the essence of what we're trying to do at Woodland Park from a parent's perspective.

I just wanted to tell you how much fun I had today in class. Seems kind of funny as a parent writing to the teacher, but today was fun for a variety of reasons. First, come on, we were playing with dirt. Got to love that. But secondly and most importantly, it was so interesting to watch how the play was evolving. Connor, most of all, was really into seeing how much he could do with the two piles of dirt. It started with just the digging and the raking. Naturally, throwing it up in the air became an experiment, as did spraying each other with the water bottle. Ultimately all the dirt ended up on one side to build a mountain for the toy people to climb and then get buried.

. . . I had forgotten how quickly the game changes, or how it blossoms into something unexpected. It felt like a journey, and I felt so lucky to be there with our preschool friends, shoulder to shoulder, dirt up to our elbows. By the way, and this might be too much information, when I got home and changed there was even sensory table dirt in my brassiere.

Anyway, it was such fun. Man I love our preschool!
Cheryl has been coming to our preschool now for 4 years and I'm expecting her to be with us for another 2. At this point she already has more preschool classroom experience than I did when I started working here. I'm blessed to get to work alongside such dedicated and loving assistant teachers.

If you're interested in more reading about our cooperative preschool, here are some other posts on the topic in order of appearance.

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Deborah Stewart said...

Tom - I had a teacher ask me on facebook - "how do I get parents more involved in the classroom?" Of course, I am going to send her a link to this post:) I have learned much from you when it comes to involving parents and it seems they are as passionate about learning the teaching process for young children as you are to share it with them. What a great situation you have there - thanks for sharing your parent's note. I love getting notes from parents - it affirms what we do.

Scott said...

I can honestly say I have never heard (or made) that comment - but I support the sentiment behind it. I think your cooperative set-up is great - for both kids and parents (not to mention the teacher!).

Karen Nemeth www.languagecastle.com said...

Wow! A whole blog about cooperative early childhood education! Perfect! I wish more parents could experience the joy of getting their elbows into the dirt with their son or daughter. Looking forward to reading more!

jenny said...

What a lovely letter. To be really involved in your child's education is priceless - and what a buzz for you to have parents excited about watching learning evolve.

We are are parent-managed school community which means that parents are actively involved in all aspects of school / preschool life through an elected school council and education committee. Our only employees are the teachers and our amazing administrator who wears many hats. But while we have an open door policy and encourage parents to stay as long as they want and to contribute to the program, we really only have a core of involved parents in the preschool.

These are often the parents who have kids that will continue onto the school, so they are committed to the idea of a learning community. A lot of our other parents who have kids that will go off to their local schools aren't as involved, and unfortunately it is often these parents who need the most convincing about certain aspects of our philosophy (indoor/outdoor play all day; no school readiness program etc). If only they would stay and like your parent, really see the learning happen. I like learning more about your model. It makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

now that is a measure of a good day!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to let you know that after reading your blog for the past several months I've finally done some research and found two coop pre-schools near us. We are going to be checking them out soon to see what we need to do to get our son enrolled. We really like the ideas behind it all.

Launa Hall said...

My children's co-op preschools are what got me into teaching. I'll be grateful forever. I thought I was learning how young children think and learn. I was, but really I was learning how to parent and how to teach. And how to be a part of a learning community, and how to deal with conflicts among children, and how to mix tempura paint, and....yeah, the list is really long.

Unknown said...

I would like to come and work with you at your school : )