Sometimes life takes turns we do not expect and our priorities have to shift in order to care for our families. I experienced that this summer in more ways than one causing me to neglect one of my passions-this blog. Things have somewhat settled down a bit and I am anxious to get back to communicating with others about learning through play.
One of the big life changes this summer was dropping my oldest daughter off at college for the first time. When she was in preschool someone once told my husband and I that before we knew it we’d be dropping her off at college. We had a hard time believing that thought…until we blinked and we were doing just that!
As we drove home following one, two, seven last hugs goodbye, and my mind started turning to preparing my preschool classroom for the start of the school year, I reflected on how so many of the skills I was confident that my daughter had and would use starting college were also my focus with my preschoolers.
Julia, my daughter, is equipped with the skills needed to make new friends. She can enter a room full of strangers and emerge with acquaintances, and more often, friends. Making eye contact, commenting on an activity someone is doing, offering to help and asking questions are just a few of the strategies people use to make these connections. These personal and social skills are a large focus of our time in the preschool classroom.
Julia has learned to be a problem solver. She can attack a situation with more than one solution and also understands the value of asking for help. When classes are scheduled incorrectly or printer connections do not work or a bank card is lost, she will be able to navigate these situations. So much of our time in the preschool classroom is spent looking at ways to solve problems whether it is how to get a toy someone else is using to getting a block building to stand up to getting a large drawing to fit inside a small backpack. Giving children the time, space and support to solve these problems without solving them for them develops this self sufficiency needed for college life and beyond.
Julia has learned the value of trying new things and taking risks. She has also learned that failure is not the end. Trying out for new sports teams, investigating new clubs and managing the disappointments that can come along with tryouts and interviews are invaluable abilities. We nourish and foster these parts of development in young children in the preschool classroom. We give them endless opportunities to try new things. We scaffold their learning so they can succeed and encourage them to take risks within reason learning the consequences of their actions. Taking all risk away from the young child and allowing them to experience only limited activities due to our own fears will not allow these abilities to flourish. We all must learn to try, possibly fall, but to get up and try once again.
Julia has learned to value of play. She knows the relaxation and rejuvenation that follows time spent in recreation activities. She knows that an important part of her time management is scheduling activities such as sports or art or laughing with friends. Children raised in settings where play is valued learn that this time is not wasted and often the best ideas are conceptualized during play.
Julia has learned the joy of learning. She is excited to take challenging classes and learn from others. She has positive feelings associated with learning. This is one of the biggest goals I have as a teacher. I wanted my students to become life-long learners. To wonder, form questions, seek answers and share their knowledge discovered. My job is not to fill their brains with facts and figures…it is to ignite the spirit of investigation and to share strategies for accomplishing their goals.
As I drove away from the college campus, and in the weeks that have followed, I felt confident in my daughter’s abilities to thrive in a university setting away from her home and family and was once again inspired to get back in to the preschool classroom to begin the important work of inspiring problem solving, friend making, risk taking life-long learners.