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Certified PreK-6. Masters in Child Development. Advocate for play, teacher & children choice, & the family's voice. Believe in volunteering as social justice.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Reflecting on the Spaces Where We Teach

It's been about a month since I started teaching at my new school (while also managing 3 other professional jobs, but that's another story).  And it's been nothing but changes and new experiences!  I think at this point I'm moving through my over-scheduled days by pure stubborness.  My role in this school is multi-faceted.  On Mondays I am the studio teacher for the young 3's class, the 3's class, and the JK class.  On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I teach a young 2s program within the studio space.  On Thursdays and Fridays I teach a 2s drop off class in a classroom that is used by the 3s on Mondays through Fridays.

To sum up, that is 5 groups of children in 2 different shared spaces.  I should also mention that the programs are all in the morning...so I see 5 groups of children all before 11:30!

Dizzy yet?

So, aside from often feeling like I am running around in circles, I have learned to be intentional and reflective about the spaces in which I teach in a whole new manner.  I have no other choice.  The 3s and the JK have different interests and developmental needs so they are working on 2 (sometimes 3 or 4) different projects on Studio Mondays.  The young 2s need an inviting and appropriate place to play within the studio two days a week.  The drop off 2s have different needs than the 3s we share a room with.  This means that several times a week (or even several times a day) I am physically moving furniture and selecting materials.

This constant state of change hasn't been totally negative.  It has stretched me as a professional in a good way, a growing way.  Now I'm literally forced to reflect on the environment and its role on the children's play more than during initial classroom set up.  And I think that's a necessary thing.  Even if I wasn't teaching five groups of children in two shared spaces, I still think that regular reflection on the environment is useful.

This is kind of the "default" studio set up.  It's really only like this when it's not in use or when children and teachers stop by to choose materials.

This is one of the ways the studio has been set up lately because the JK class is working on large collaborative painting.  It'll look even different tomorrow because the 3s are playing with large mirrors in their study of the sense of self.

And then each week, I set up the studio to welcome the young 2s group.  This is just some of the ways it has looked.  It depends on what materials I want to introduce or they are interested in.

This is the room that is a space for 3s Mondays through Wednesdays and a space for my drop off 2s Thursdays and Fridays.  Every week my co-teacher and I put plexiglass on the ladders of the loft, have to put materials meant for the 3s up on the loft, rearrange tables (we like the 8 person snack center table and the 3s group uses a smaller snack center table), switch out manipulatives and dramatic play items, lower the legs on the sensory table, and beautifully set out the items we plan to introduce.  And then on Friday we do the reverse so the room is ready for the 3s on Monday.  EVERY WEEK.

The outdoor environment is very important to me as well.  I use the outdoor garden with both sets of 2s and there is a lot of thought and care put into this space as well.

All of this requires a lot of effort, both physically and intellectually.  But it's also something that is important in supporting the play and development of the children.  I'm sure these spaces will change hundreds of times over the course of the year as the needs and interests of the five groups of children change.  But this state of change and adaptation is a part of the learning process.

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