Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Want Turquoise Carpets

I want turquoise carpets and turquoise shoes.
I want turquoise papers with all the turquoise news.
I want turquoise only, not teal or aquamarine.
I've seen my future and it's a shade of bluish green.
~Jim White, Turquoise House

An era ended last week at Woodland Park. We've been preparing for it for a week or more, and it's time, and it had to end sometime, and all the rest of it, but there is an extra heaviness in my heart this morning as I allow myself to feel the passing of the era of the Blue Rug.

Before the Blue Rug, there was the Green Rug, which was also referred to as the "square hexagon" due to the irregular, angular masking tape lines laid down by a previous teacher in a failed effort to get 2-year-olds to actually sit in a circle. Its successor, the Blue Rug, a glorified 15'X12' remnant, has been with us for the past 9 years, serving as a place to sit, raise hands, sing, tell stories, give compliments, make rules, dance, build, and wrestle for hundreds of children.

Never again will I sing what is probably the unofficial anthem of Woodland Park:

Come on over to the Blue Rug.
Come on over to the Blue Rug.
Come on over to the Blue Rug.
And have a seat on the floor.

Right near the end of last year, a couple of the parents in our Pre-3's class began to worry about our rugs. Their main concern was the rug under our sensory table, which, of course, often gets wet, and has suffered from a few growths of mildew. This conversation expanded to include the topics of off-gassing, mold, durability, and natural fibers, leading to the idea to replace both rugs, a concept that came to be embraced, or at least not opposed, by a majority of our families. As a cooperative preschool, this is how things often happen.

As the owners of the school, these parents then set about figuring out what, in their ideal world, they would rather have under their children's bottoms and feet. Something tough and non-toxic, of course, easy to clean, mildew resistant, and attractive. 

This rug isn't only where we convene for circle time, but also a place for constructive and dramatic play. We are already seeing, even before the rug was installed, how the square tiles impact how the children play.

To be honest, I was not on board. I mean, new rugs would be nice, but I was more inclined to either stick with the Blue Rug, which I felt just needed a good cleaning, or if we must replace it, to do so with another cheap remnant. But, you know, it's not my school: it belongs to the families. I'll always assert my opinion when it comes to matters of curriculum or pedagogy, but this was not that. Besides as the discussions progressed, it started to become evident to me that we weren't really going to replace the Blue Rug. The parents had settled on the absolute "gold standard" for preschool carpeting: they wanted to build one from carpet tiles manufactured by FLOR. By the time they priced it out we were looking at a price tag well beyond our budget, and with the school calendar running out on us, there just wasn't going to be time to do the fundraising, let alone go through the processes required to get all 3 of the Woodland Park schools to approve the expenditure. And even while the process did make me begin to covet a FLOR carpet, I figured once we broke for the summer the momentum would fail and the whole episode would only continue to survive as a few meager lines in our meeting minutes.

Squares on squares.

Now let me tell you, despite my best penny pinching efforts, I became through this process a fan of the FLOR product. For one thing, our parents with architecture and design backgrounds were enthusiastic about FLOR from the start, some of whom had used their products both personally and professionally, saying they are worth every penny. When I mentioned it to my wife, a home design hobbyist, she said, "Oh, that's the best." Made from recycled materials, built for both beauty and abuse, and flexible: it was the flexibility perhaps more than anything else that swayed me. If we somehow managed to completely ruin one of the 20"X20" squares, which is possible in our very messy school, we could simply replace the tile, not the whole rug.

Ah, but as we went into the summer, my private predictions had come true. We'd not managed to figure out a way to swing it, the summer program spends all it's time outdoors where the Blue Rug was off the radar, and I was quite certain it would be years before the subject came up again. 

I was wrong. At the summer board meeting of our new Pre-3's class, our new health and safety officer, said, "Last year's class voted to replace the rugs in the classroom, but they couldn't afford it. We don't have to honor their intentions, but I think we should." And we were off, ultimately getting all 3 of the Woodland Park schools on board.

The tiles are held together by these adhesive dots.

The new FLOR tiles arrived a couple weeks ago. I pulled a few samples from the boxes and spread them on a counter for the parents to see as they arrived. We needed a few volunteers to offer to come in on a weekend or evening to install it and I figured this would be a good way to motivate folks. After a couple days, however, I was too excited, so just brought them into the classroom where we let the kids play with them, making their own patterns and paths. I love that we had this opportunity for all of us to transition from the old to the new.

And yesterday was installation day. Liam's mom Abigail and Rhys and Maya's mom Christina met me in the classroom at noon. The actual installation of a 15'X12' and a 8'X5' rugs took about 30 minutes. We spent more time sweeping, mopping, and hauling the old rugs out to Abigail's pick-up than we did on the actual installation.

I didn't shed a tear for the Blue Rug as I saw it packed up and ready for its final trip to the dump. I could clearly see in the light of day that it was a ratty, stained old thing. We now have a rug made from cool, fresh turquoise, teal, and "tidal" colored squares. What will we call it? Maybe the Turquoise Rug -- we sing a good song about that color. Maybe the Checker Board Rug. Maybe it'll be the Bluish-Green Rug. I guess I'll have to wait until Monday and let the kids decide.

We settled on a fairly straight forward pattern. Maybe we should have gone with something more random. Or perhaps we could have used one color to create a sort of "Teacher Tom zone" up near the front to keep kids from crowding in too closely. The good news is we can change it if we decide we want something different.

Some people get frustrated by a cooperative process. It's not always fast but it's a process that does work to make good things happen, one into which we've all by now bought. The result is that the "third teacher" got a make-over. I can't wait to see what it does for all of us.

Oh, and we also got that new sensory table rug that started the whole thing.

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Rowan said...

Square hexagon! That was my little brother Calvin's invention, wasn't it?

Teacher Tom said...

Yep! That was Calvin. It was my first year teaching. I sang, "Come on over to Circle Time." He stood there for a second, then said, "This isn't a circle: it's a square hexagon."