Our teachers met last week to put the final touches on our preschool for the new school year. Staff members volunteered between a few hours and more than 100 hours this summer, and it feels great to move into this year with every bin organized, classrooms in shape, a new website, and all those little things we didn’t have time to do during the school year done.
I design the curriculum framework at Bellevue Discovery, but the teachers are responsible for filling it in with their passion, initiative, creativity and personal quirks. They are responsible for building relationships with each child, knowing when to nudge and when to cuddle, and setting aside their fantasies about how the day will play out.
One morning last week I came out of a meeting and wandered through the four rooms: Imagination, Art Studio, Pumpkins and Sweet Peas. Six teachers sat around a table in the Pumpkins room (on little preschool chairs) brainstorming ideas for our Planet Earth project. They are all moving into brand new or slightly new positions of leadership this year and I could hear them feeling each other out: who loves to generate ideas? who enjoys taking others’ ideas and running with them? who sees the big picture? who is happy to be in a support role?
We don’t have a traditional staff structure of lead and assistant teachers: all of our teachers are expected to move fluidly between leading, following and participating. We all clean up messes. We all cover for each other when life gets in the way of us being the teachers we want to be.
One morning last year I was talking with the preschoolers about their daily graph and I saw several teachers move into position at the back of the group. I wondered why, then recognized that my voice had become fake-y sweet. I had other parts of my life occupying my mind and knew I didn’t have the energy to lead, but it was the role I usually took with daily graph. My teachers were hovering, so I trusted their judgment, caught one’s eye and said, “Can you take over?”
“Yep,” she said, stepping over kids quickly and sliding into my place. I could walk away knowing my co-teachers had it.
The teacher makes the classroom. In our case, the teaching team makes the preschool. Parents may choose to apply because of our educational philosophy (constructivist) or focus (early childhood gifted education). They may like our focus on creativity or … I won’t go down the list; you can read about us on our website. But the reason families love our preschool is because of our teachers.
I want to give a shout out at the start of another school year: thank you to our devoted, nurturing, creative, funny, hard working teachers. I love working with you!