Yesterday I had the honor and the privilege of attending Will's school with him. It's something I've been wanting to do--to get a sense of how his day goes, what the children are like, what their rituals are. We get a sheet each day that tells us what the class did that day, and of course Will offers up some random pieces of info like, "We painted with icebergs!" but I wanted to see for myself how a day at preschool really went down. And to top it off, the day I chose to attend school was Penguin Day.
What? Your preschool doesn't have Penguin Day? Well then, you are missing out. Actually, I can't figure out why we have Penguin Day either, but they do it every year. I guess it's just something to make January more fun (and they are learning about winter, things that are cold, cold-weather animals, so I suppose it makes sense). Regardless, the kids seem to love it.
So, yesterday morning we headed out to school--all of us in our black and white (a requirement of Penguin Day)--except Julia, who wore penguin pajamas. Will was so excited, which was super sweet. All week he had been telling his friends, "My Mama is coming to school on Friday. She's going to STAY at school with me." I had to emphasize multiple times that this was a special day, that we would not be doing this every day, that I would only come to his class once in a while. He seems to get it--we'll see.
When we arrived, I got to see how a "typical" day plays out. Although, the kids did seem a little hyped up--Ms. Debbie (one of Will's teachers) explained that they get a little crazy anytime they have something special going on. So, I sat on the sidelines and watched as she did "Circle Time" and the kids learned about how penguins live in colonies, but polar bears like to live alone. She read a story about penguins, the kids got to hold stuffed penguins, and then they played a few penguin games--practicing waddling, etc. I watched in awe as she got eleven kids to (mostly) pay attention and how she practiced loving discipline with them. Watching the kids, I learned who the "troublemakers" in the class were (thankfully not Will, at least not at this moment), and who needs more attention, and who is super-sweet and quiet. Will was mostly good, and not too clingy with me; although, he did have trouble with the instruction "hold your penguin in your lap quietly," as he thought it would be more fun to make his penguin dance and flip.
After Circle Time, it was time for "Centers." This is where the children are divided up into groups, and they go to different areas of the room for specified amounts of time. Again, I was impressed with the activities the teachers provided--in one center, the children worked on a penguin worksheet helping them learn how to sequence events, and at the center where I was helping, the children worked on their letters by making the letters out of Legos. The most popular center was the "water station" where the kids got to play with arctic animals and shaving cream (for snow) in a big bucket of water. Only one person got to go at a time, and it seemed to be a big treat to get picked for that one. Then, they also had centers where they just played--blocks and home living. What fascinated me was how quickly they moved to a new center. Due to their short attention spans (I assume), Ms. Debbie had the kids switch centers every five minutes or so. Since it was only 9:00 at this point, I was really wondering how she was going to keep them entertained all day.
At 9:30, it was time for computer class. Most of the kids (Will included) have signed up to participate in computer once a week, so off we went to the Activity Room, where the computer teacher had set up several laptops. She gave a short lesson on computer terminology like keyboard, saving, and word processing, then the kids took turns playing educational games on the computer. I had no idea that Will was so adept with the mouse already! I was also surprised at how well they shared with each other--how can we get that to happen at home?!
When we got back from computer, we worked on making the penguin snack that I had brought for the class--Oreo cookies, Hershey kisses, and candy corn. Ms. Debbie told them that we were going to make the snack now, but they would eat it after nap. Again, I was surprised at how little whining there was about this. For the most part, they just accept what the teacher says without complaint, a skill we REALLY need to work on here at home. Once the snacks were ready, it was time to go outside and burn off some energy. For some reason, Will got pitiful at this point and didn't want to play. But, I loved seeing the rituals of going outside--how they all go to the bathroom, put on their coats, and line up...someone is the line leader and someone is the door holder (and it's a special honor to get to do either of those jobs). When they get back inside, they each head to the bathroom to wash their hands and then sit down in their assigned seat for lunch. Lunch was spaghetti, applesauce, and a roll (with a cookie afterwards), and Will wolfed it down and asked for more. During lunch, they're supposed to only whisper or talk quietly, and they all DID JUST THAT. After lunch, the girls go potty, then the boys, and then everyone gets on their mat for nap time. At this point, I read them a quick story, and then I left...exhausted. I could have used a nap myself, and it was only 11:45!
I was so glad I got to have this experience and plan to go back sometime in the spring or summer. I learned a lot by going to school with Will. First of all, I learned that I should take every dollar out of my savings account and give it to those teachers because their job is HARD and they are not paid even close to enough. They are all so sweet and patient, and I am very thankful for them and the role they play in my children's lives. Second, I learned that Will is capable of a lot more than I give him credit for. When we have behavior issues at home, I often brush it off as "he's just being three" and while that's true sometimes, I also think I need to expect more of him--I've seen the way he can behave at school, so I know he can do it. However, the flip side of that (and something else I learned) is that these kids are busy ALL DAY at school. They are listening and following rules and waiting their turn and just generally keeping it together. So, at the end of the day, I understand that Will just wants to veg out and watch a TV show, or that he's a bit cranky or whiny. After all, he's only three. I was worn out after only three hours at preschool--he does it all day, every day. I don't think I could hack it. Maybe next time I'll stay for the whole day and see how that goes.