Tiny Worlds Getting a Little Bigger
By Rita Thoemke
A parent asked me at our fall party how I felt the year had started. I responded that we got off to a great start, smoother than in recent years. This parent is also an educator and he shared with me that he had not heard any other teacher describe the beginning of this school year as “smooth” or “great,” as I had. We talked a bit about this, and I came to a realization: the toddlers in the Winter Room are in a unique position. They are experiencing school for the first time, without any past experiences with which to compare it. They don’t know anything different than what we have given them so far at All Seasons in the Winter Room.
For the most part, this is the first time these children have separated from parents and family. We introduce things slowly and let them get used to their new surroundings. We build an intentional community where we all care about one another. Little by little, these toddlers have come to understand the routine and workings of our small class. Every day we hear these children give gentle reminders to one another or help each other with tasks: “Remember, only teachers open doors,” or “Try not to get your blue (paint) in my red.” It is also a joy to watch a child turn on the faucet for another child and assist them in getting soap.
In a “normal” school year, our community would also include the residents and staff upstairs. We would see Steve, our building and grounds manager, frequently, and even get to know our neighbors at the church next door. We have still had beautiful interactions with the people in our community who are outside our Winter Room. A child recently lined toys up on the windowsill to show the preschoolers in the Spring Room. We have gotten acquainted with Grandma Jean, who often visits with family on the patio, and Grandpa Dan, who walks by our room daily and stops at our window to say hi. Last year’s toddlers made a friend through a window on the playground. Grandma Darlene saw us one day and the kids ran over to her. They blew kisses to each other and the joy on both sides of the window was clear to see.
This week, our toddlers will get to participate in another fall tradition that looks different from what it has in the past. Our Halloween parade will be a scaled-down version of what we used to do. Teachers will notice the changes, but to these toddlers, it is simply another new and exciting experience. The world around these toddlers has expanded on a smaller scale than it would have in a “normal” year, but it has indeed gotten a bit bigger. They know they are part of a wonderful community that is just big enough for them.