It was such a great day at school today! It was rich and busy and fun. I came home feeling so fulfilled. I am stepping out of the box where the teacher owns the classroom and parents are invaders who come to judge and criticise (that is probably a bit harsh, but it can be quite daunting when they come early to collect the children and stand watching over you all for the last ten minutes of the day) into a space where I recognise and accept parents in their role as co-educators of their children. In fact, they are the primary educators of their children. That has to be respected. In a sense I am beginning to put that expectation out there. It's not all up to me in the classroom. I don't 'own' it. It's up to me to provide a space where learning happens...where learning is promoted and initiated by the careful and caring placement of words, materials and people.
Today, as our knitting and craft afternoon came to a close the few parents were packing up to 'leave' or to wait by the door until the bell went at the end of the day, I invited one of the mums to read to the children. I had quite a lot of materials to pack away and had things to get to after school and was feeling a bit squeezed for time. I asked her if she would mind reading a story to the children while I packed up. I hope she felt comfortable with that. She has been in the classroom on most Monday afternoons for the last term and a half so knows the children quite well. She did a great job with the children and the reading. The kids loved the novelty of it all and I had time to get things organised by the time the bell went. It felt great. It felt great to hand it over to someone else to be 'centre-stage' for a little while. It felt great to see the children enjoying seeing one of their mums in this role. It felt great to be challenging the 'status quo'.
One of the things I love about teaching young children is that I get to know their families too. They are all great people from such different backgrounds and circumstances. They all love their kids and they are all teachers in their own right. These kids have learned to walk and talk and do all manner of things before they get to school. Parents and families teach morals, manners, habits and rituals to the children in their care. I want to honour the massive job parents do and become a helper in their child's education and a guide perhaps, or a problem solver. I'd like to be a collaborator in the education of their children and not so much a dictator. I think if families can work more closely with teachers, and teachers be open to working more with families and bringing school, home and community closer together, then our young people must benefit from it. If we can create some 'green corridors' between home and school so that children flow more seamlessly between the two; if parents are able and encouraged to spend more time in the classroom learning alongside their children, imagine what could be achieved.
I know it probably seems a bit idealistic and I know it's the teachers's job to teach, but imagine if we had more support from home. Imagine if parents were welcomed into class to see what we were doing and to participate and begin to understand what we are all working towards in schoolrooms these days. It's not like the 'old days' that many parents remember. Times have changed. We can keep them changing too. We can do what is good for kids, and that is to build a cohesive network of people around them to support their learning and growth into the community.
One of the mums asked today if we'd be continuing with the crafty afternoons each Monday. I am saying 'yes!' to that. It has been a rich and wonderful time watching the children flourish under so much attention. They have taken on tasks they could never have achieved with just me in the room with them. With support kids can do amazing things. They have incredible courage and ideas. We have the knowledge and experience to help them explore their ideas and create new realities for themselves. We can help them build from their designs. I am lucky to work with a bunch of talented and dedicated teachers who bless me so often with their vast knowledge and experience of teaching and learning. I am lucky to work with a bunch of great kids, full of enthusiasm and fun and curiosity and courage. I am lucky to work with fantastic teacher aides who care so much for the kids and always know just what needs to be fetched or fixed or done in a crisis! I am lucky to work with a bunch of dedicated parents who are willing to step out of the box with me and come into the classroom and go with the flow. We're doing our best together and working it out as we go along. I see lots of smiles on everyone so it's got to be good.
Wouldn't it be great to hear everyone say "WE LOVE SCHOOL!!" That's where I'm heading!