Friday, October 08, 2010

Somehow I Taught It

On Tuesday, while I was waiting for my Pre-K boys to reassemble on the blue rug for a run-down on what I'd planned for us to do next, I started tapping out a drum solo on one of our wooden boxes, while vocalizing a sort of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom style nonsense jazz scat. Within seconds there were 8 of us around that box, beating on it, all 16 hands together, making noise, making music. We were looking into one another's faces, not smiling exactly, but some how joyful, together, one. I've been part of adult drum circles and it usually takes a good half hour to reach that state.

I suppose it really didn't last more than 60 seconds, but when I locked the doors behind me at the end of the day, that was the moment where I felt proudest of myself as a teacher, the one that carried me home, and this was the same day during which we'd successfully mixed and poured our own concrete.

I tend to be an on-the-fly type of planner (if that can be called planning), but by the time the kids arrive each day, I've always set up a variety of activities, stations, around the room that I think will engage the kids. Whether I like it or not, I usually have some idea of how I expect that to happen, but the better part of teaching preschool is giving all that up the moment children arrive on the scene.

For instance, maybe an activity is better if done on the floor, rather than a table top.

Or how about this guy, who, while driving a truck, discovered the pair of scissors I've chained to the tape machine so that there is always at least one pair around for cutting tape.

First he tried it out on the truck . . .

. . . then stretched it out to the box that the bigger boys would later use as an impromptu drum. He poked them here and there . . .

. . . before finally discovering that they would stay in place if he stuck them in the handle slot.

Now he had a kind of bridge for his truck.

It made a cool buzzing, vibrating sound when he drove on it. It took technique to drive on it without knocking it down.

This girl was working all her muscles on a paper she held in her hand. It had recently been a picture she'd drawn in pencil. She said, "I'm twisting it." Later I discovered 3 "twisted" drawings in her cubby, all meaningful creations worthy of being taken home.

We were making "fall leaves" by squirting red, orange, and yellow liquid water color onto coffee filter leaves . . .

. . . but when these girls discovered that hanging them on our drying racks made a terrific leaf house, that's where they put their energies.

I could have never planned this "beaver house."

Nor could any teacher have anticipated this pirate ship complete with plenty of wood destined for some distant island where they would one day build their "pirate house."

And I have no idea about the who, how or why of this.

But there it is and somehow I taught it.

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BG said...

I love this

Amy A @ Child Central Station said...

Great post Tom! One of the parts I love best about my job is the fact that anything is truly possible. I am always amazed at the ingenuity of our young friends! Thanks again for sharing!

Marla McLean, Atelierista said...

Lately I have been teaching/speaking/presenting to teachers-to-be & teachers. Again and again, administrators/society's unhealthy and unproven requests for letter recognition and writing at too young an age is stifling their planning and squashing possibilities.
The literacy in your "unplanned" day is rich and varied. Construction, engineering, envisioning, collaboration and perseverance are qualities that will stay and grow in your young children. Your "unplanned" day is really very planned, because your intentional use of your environment and the materials within it and all the thought and possibilities that you know it will provoke. So many teachers insist that the animals must stay in the "science" area and the paper in the "art" area. What a shame. Your children are innovative and creative, because you are & you know that by providing the caring and flexible, yet "planned" space, they might in fact, surpass your expectations.