Sunday, 2 October 2016

Professional Development of the Third Teacher. 6

This week I would like to return to the idea of making the preschool beautiful... or aesthetic...

This is something I struggle with a great deal at the place I work because we are still trying to create a learning aesthetic with a philosophical profile for the setting that was once a post office.

If I was to design a preschool from scratch... the floor plan would not look like the one I work with. BUT this old post office is the setting that I have to work with. This means I have to collaborate with this third teacher that I don't really get on with... and I didn't from my first meeting....

I remember when I was interviewed and being shown around the preschool this feeling deep within my body that the setting and me were not terribly compatible... the thing was, I loved the vision of the preschool, I loved the idea of using philosophy with the very young, the idea of learning something new with the children. So the approach, the philosophy convinced me that with time the setting and I would learn to get on with each other...

And yes, we get on these days... but it is not an easy relationship.
There have been many changes over the years... trying to make the rooms smaller (as they kept saying run run as fast as you can to all the children) and also working out how best to place our materials.
At times we have had TOO much stuff available for the children... making it impossible for the children, and us, to keep the space inviting ... as the messier it got the more the children seemed to move on and play elsewhere.

This could be easily seen when a teacher came and sorted the table tops and presented it in a manner that once again appealed... children flocked back to play.

So I find there is always this balance between what adults think is beautiful and orderly, what children think is beautiful and orderly (which can look like chaos) and to that place of real chaos that does not invite play...

I am not afraid of chaos... Matti Bergström (a brain researcher Finland/Sweden) said that creativity is born in chaos... he also talked about white play and black play... white play being teacher/adult controlled and "appropriate" while black play is chaotic play, more rough and tumble and deemed less appropriate...  I am going to be looking more into this next year... for the moment I don't have time to dive into this, and I feel it can wait... (as I am not so keen on the names for the play... a little too stereotype for me... and also I am not sure how much weight we should be putting on brain research from the 1980's and 1990's when this is an area that has really exploded knowledge wise in recent years...)

Back to the preschool...

The floors for me disturb me... but this is probably just a me thing... I am not one for grey floors... and I know they have been chosen so that they do not impose on the children... ie a relatively neutral colour... but for me it is not neutral, it is so loaded. I find the floors depressing.
I am one of those people that really needs wooden floors, or much lighter floors (or fake wood even) to lift the room. But this is my relationship with the floor.

We also have several rooms that do not have windows... and this is also a problem for me... I need daylight... especially in Sweden when in winter there are not many hours of daylight... This means we are unable to have a preschool where each age group has its own space/room... which group would want the windowless room? (if that was even allowed).
Also many rooms lead in to each other... this means that even if we had decided that each of the four groups had its own "classroom" only two of the groups would be able to get in and out without walking through another groups room. Not exactly optimal.

So we have had create a preschool where the whole preschool is available to all the children...
this means we have to have a schedule so that all groups get access to all areas without us disturbing each other... we can't all be in the atelier at the same time... or any of the other spaces... and since some of the rooms link on to each other without walls, we also need to take that into consideration when making plans... it is hard for children to focus in the atelier when others are playing a loud and interesting role-play on the other side of the shelving...

It has also meant that we have to think how we display materials, and how we tidy up... and how we as teachers have to have a level of control that we probably would not need if the groups were divided by age... small loose parts can present a choking hazard...

It also means that it can be hard for the older children to save their constructions when 1-2 year olds need to go round like Hulk smashing things and checking out gravity... both have needs that should be met...

So no, my third teacher and I do not see eye to eye... it does not let me be the educator I want to be... I have to compromise and be the best educator I can within my context... and that means keeping the children safe... and allowing all children the freedom to play... the 1 year olds right up to the five year olds... the quiet children, the noisy children - those who want to sit and build/draw, small world play... and those who want to run, dance, crash and have big theatrical role-play.
Its is a challenge to support the third teacher to meet all these needs... and as educators we have to be ever active in that process... sadly as yet, the third teacher is not fully competent on its own...

Stripping the preschool of most of the toys and just leaving natural loose parts has been a great way for the third teacher to gain some autonomy... it has been working... and we have things like buttons etc that we can take down from high shelves to work with the children when we sit with them... 1-5 yr olds all play with the buttons... and yes... bright colourful plastic buttons... I am not against plastic or bright colours... I do look for plastic that is not harmful. Afterall we want a sustainable environment - but not a monotone one. Colour needs to exist... the children need to be exposed to all sorts of materials... not just natural ones.




1 comment:

  1. I love your writing. How you explain your thoughts and challenges. Very helpful.

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