Playground Teacher Talks
Let me preface this by saying that, obviously, our first priority must be the safety of the children in our care. It's a nonnegotiable responsibility. That being said, there are times when my class is playing happily and I am able to have a conversation with my teaching partner as we supervise. These conversations shape my teaching practice in invaluable ways. Sure, we will chit chat about our lives and families, and the relationship that helps us develop directly benefits the children. They see us modeling a healthy friendship, and the positive rapport we share influences the emotional tenor of the classroom. But our talks go far beyond the day-to-day. We talk about race (she is Black, I am white). We talk about the many challenges of the education system, how we might create equitable access to high-quality opportunities and environments, and the influence of politics in the educational trajectories of children in our country. We also talk about our students, what we're observing, how we can support them, and ideas for creating our emergent curriculum with them. Scheduled planning meetings are great, but I tell ya - these spontaneous conversations are pure gold. Let your teachers talk to each other.
When I first started teaching, I loved dressing up. I had this mental image of what a teacher should look like, and I had so much fun dressing the part, almost like a costume. Over the years, my work wardrobe relaxed bit by bit until, finally, I find myself wearing jeans and sneakers just about every day. I didn't realize it at the time, but my fancy teacher clothes were really limiting me. I think I unconsciously moved away from offering play that could get too messy and from engaging in outdoor explorations alongside my students (I'll never forget rolling my ankles while wearing clogs on a hike). My jeans invite me to get down on the floor, join in the fun, and get my hands dirty. They help me to be an active participant in the life of my classroom and not just an on-looker. Of course we should have a neat and professional appearance But we can't pretend that clothing doesn't directly impact the choices and practices of an early childhood teacher.
Crystals, Oils, and Other (Sometimes Crunchy) Rituals
Last summer, as I awaited news about school reopening (both in general and my own, specifically), I was fully aware that I could not maintain the level of stress I was feeling. I've been through my share of difficult times, but last summer was the most intense, most sustained level of stress I've ever felt in my life. I knew I wanted to go back to teaching in person - desperately, in fact - but I was also terrified. I didn't know how to navigate both of those emotions at the same time. So I started with therapy, a support that has been critical to me throughout my adult life. My therapist began by reminding me that neither of us could make the anxiety I was feeling disappear, and that wasn't the point, anyway. What we could work on was developing strategies to help me cope. In addition to utilizing some tools that have worked for me in the past, I also turned to things that I had previously feared might be "too out there." I asked a knowledgable friend to create me a custom crystal recommendation, based on my needs. Every day this year, I have worn my carnelian and rose quartz necklaces to school, and I've dabbed on amber oil before I leave in the morning. Can I prove that they have any impact? No. But the act itself is a comfort to me, and a reminder: Today, I will be happy. Today, I will be surrounded by love. Today, I will be protected. My day is filled with lots of these tiny, meaningful rituals. Five minutes of journaling before breakfast. A long, hot shower when I get home. A Coke Zero at 4pm. They don't mean much on their own. But when considered altogether, they look a lot like a woman invested in taking care of herself, no matter how quirky it might seem to others.
I'm discovering new parts of my invisible curriculum every day! What's in yours?