September 13, 2012

Do You See What I See?

I moved into a new house over a year ago.  The other day one of my teenage daughters paused dramatically in the kitchen, in the middle of a crucial brownie-baking session.  She looked up, a confused expression on her face, nodded towards the clock hanging on the kitchen wall and demanded to know, “How long has that been there?”  I’m pretty certain I hung it there the same week we moved in. Have you ever had that kind of experience?

I had a similar moment early in this school year.  At Friends’ we have a little corner of the preschool where parents in our west classroom sign their kids in and out of school.  Above the sign-in binder, attached to the wall, the teachers have hung a poster with the title “How To Build Community.”  I pass that spot dozens of times a day on the way to and from my office.  Finally, in my sixteenth month of working at Friends’, I took a moment to read the poster and digest what it said.

It’s a great little poster.  Without being too dramatic or anything, at least not quite as dramatic as my teenage girls tend to be, this poster carries a hugely important message for the future of humankind.  It contains sage advice.  Advice we could all use and try to do better at every day.  And the preschool is the perfect example of how we are building community and making a difference each and every day. 

If you have spent any time in the Friends’ preschool, and I know many of you have, you will know how much time our teachers spend modeling and helping our preschoolers to learn to follow many of these suggestions. Here are a few gems I read on the poster:

Greet people – every child is greeted every day, several times a day, by name.

Sharing materials in preschool
Plant flowers – the preschool gardens and raised beds are filled with plants. Preschoolers give flowers to their families as part of Parent Appreciation Day each year.

Share what you have – all the classroom materials are for everyone and learning to share is one of our #1 goals.

Read stories aloud – every day, all the time, sometimes snuggled together on a couch, the perfect place for a story!

Start a tradition – Friends’ School is steeped in traditions, some handed down from the first teachers and students who were here 25 years ago.  We are open to new ideas and start new traditions or rituals every year.  We also end them if they no longer seem important.

Bake extra and share – every day in preschool a family brings in a healthy snack.  Sharing and saying thank you are big deals!

Sing together – Jessie, Katelynn, Caroline, Christie, Meg, and Katy sing with the kids every day.  There are songs for thank you, for cleaning up, for coming inside, and just for fun.  I love hearing them from my office.

Mediate a conflict – sharing, or watching what we say, can be tough for a three year old (sometimes for a forty year old too!)  Our teachers are amazingly skilled at helping kids to express their feelings, to grow in empathy, and to work it out.

Learn from new and uncomfortable angles – When you’re not even five yet, a lot of the world is new and sometimes uncomfortable.  Learning to take on new experiences is a big part of growing your brain.

Listen to the birds – our three and four year olds are outside for an hour every day and they are taught to notice and appreciate the natural world around them.  We are lucky that we have such an expansive and green playground.

It’s amazing what we are able to notice if we just stop and listen to the birds every once in a while, or stop and smell the roses, or stop and read what’s on the wall.  I’m glad I did.

1 comment:

Jessie Vanden Hogen said...

So great, so true! It's amazing to see how fast these communities come together. I'll speak for the preschool teachers...we are a lucky bunch!