Monday, July 16, 2012

Why Won't They Quit Running?

My new class of two year olds had boundless energy. Run, run, run. All they did was run.  And then run some more. My mantras of "We use our walking feet when we are inside" and "Walking feet, please" fell on deaf, running ears. Why would they want to walk when running is so much more fun? And for some of the students, a new found skill. Yet, they needed to learn that running in the classroom is not safe. Plus, the older they get, the more running inside is frowned upon.

I needed to figure out a way to not have to say "Walk, please" over and over again. Because even I was starting to ignore the sound of my voice.

I planted myself in the middle of the chaos which was my classroom, and watched. I noted where the main running areas were. And looking at these areas with a small, two-year-old, perspective, it became quite clear why the running was happening. These spaces in my classroom looked like a what wide open, grassy field looks like to me - a place where you have no choice but to run.

My plan? Eliminate the inviting, wide open places. I needed more furniture.

I was introduced to the campus warehouse, from which I took several tables, a couple of shelves, and a whole kitchen set for the dramatic play area (Score!).

I then placed these new item of furniture right smack in the middle of the wide open spaces. On the furniture I placed an assortment of activities; crayons, puzzles, paper tearing, books.

The new classroom design was not aesthetically pleasing. It really made no sense to my "I need Centers and stuff" classroom mentality. However, the students no longer ran. They slowed down, and showed interest in the various activities I had out. They slowed down long enough for us to discuss the merits of walking in the classroom as opposed to running. And most important, I was no longer asking them to stop doing something; instead, they were able to start doing things. Lots of fun, interesting things. Yay!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A New Adventure

Once I completed my Master's degree program in Early Childhood education, I tucked my new degree into my belt, and since I needed to pay for this piece of paper, I decided to leave the magical, special preschool where I had taught for the the last 10 years, and find a teaching position that offered more money, benefits, and the opportunity for advancement.

I was fortunate to be offered a position in the local school district. Teaching two year olds. After I enthusiastically accepted the position, I hung up the phone, and repeated, "Teaching two year olds? What does one teach a two year old?"

I was at a loss. All of my expertise was working with three year olds. I was good with three year olds. How in the world was I going to create a warm and engaging classroom for two year olds? Plus, I would be changing diapers. That whole celebration I had when my youngest was FINALLY out of diapers was apparently in vain. Panic started to set in. The bit of information that caused full blown panic? "Your class has 25 students."

25 two-year-olds? In diapers? Holy cow, how on earth was I going to manage this?

I walk in on the first day to a bunch of very small children running around. A LOT of very small children running around. A lot of small children running around...wearing diapers. The changing table is in the front of the room, gleaming and mocking me.

I am trying to wrap my head around how I am going to change 25 diapers. How can I possible keep 25 bottoms fresh and clean and teach them things? Can I teach children this young things?

My first day was...let's say...not perfect. I felt like all I did was change diapers, catch toys that were being tossed around the room, and during nap time I spent 1 hour and 38 minutes trying to calm a screaming child. Who tried to bite me. Twice.

So glad I got that degree.

By the end of the first week, I had established my countdown to the end of the year, and ran myself ragged trying to just make sure I had as many kids at the end of the day that I started out with.

That first weekend I analyzed why I was running so ragged. What is the key to a calm and easy to manage classroom? The students need to be engaged. They need to know what is expected of them. They need to have structure.

And thus began my adventure in the world of the two-year-olds.