It’s been seven days of preschool or just four days, depending on whether my friends come three days or five. I’m nursing my first cold but I’m also already in love with these wee ones. Like having a new-born, the first few weeks in preschool are full of energy, effort, and often, sheer exhaustion. The love comes slowly, but surely, as we get to know each other. There’s so much in front of them that’s new and different. Some are excited. Some are scared. Some are overwhelmed. And so are the children of these parents! We’ve begun to see those irresistible smiles and hear those giggles as these three-year olds become aware and engaged in their new home away from home.
One day last week, one of my wee ones was having a particularly hard transition. There were tears, as we’ve had each day. Buckets full. Four of us sat nibbling on snack, suddenly the whimpers and shaking on my lap stopped and he yelled, “Miss Lisa – A SPIIIIIDER!” Of course, all four boys shuffled away from the table right away. We let the big ‘ole daddy long legs back out the window. As we watched him scamper away, the former crier remembered the box turtle we had watched the day before on the playground. As they recanted what we observed, I was silently praising the Mighty God of Arachnids who seemed to be responsible for squelching this morning’s sadness. I snapped back into the moment to notice that all three boys were excitedly talking about yesterday’s turtle to each other (real give-and-take conversation not always heard among threes!).
Their collective memory was that this box turtle was blue. It was clearly time to seize their excitement and move on the blue turtle concept. “You know what we could do today? We could make a blue turtle for our room!”I suggest with nearly as much enthusiasm as my friends. They looked at me in disbelief and then started cheering, “blue turrtle…yeah!” Our conversation quickly turned to what it would look like, what we would need, and what the turtle would have – a sword (“actually, at our school we keep everyone safe and a sword wouldn’t feel safe.”), a magic wand (“that’s possible.”), or a motorcycle (really not sure where this came from but they all seemed convinced our turtle should ride on one, so that might come next).
So as our first mini-project, these boys helped me gather our materials. We talked through what shape the turtle would be, how many legs it would have, and how big the head would be relative to the shell. We discovered how to use stubby paint brushes and work together to paint the shell and legs. We searched high and low for materials to use for a head. As the turtle dried, we moved to imaginary play with small animals and the habitat we built on a low table. Their minds were still on the turtle, and we began to discuss the name. The former crier was insistent that it would be “Kevin.” The others agreed and one added, “we can call him ‘Freddy’ for short!”
Moments before we packed up to go, someone noticed (the 2-dimensional) Kevin Freddy was dry. We had already crumpled paper to stuff his painted shell, so we quickly assembled Kevin Freddy. As lots of proud smiles and loving hugs were exchanged, we said good-bye for the day, knowing Kevin Freddy would be ready to introduce to the rest of our friends the next day. When I returned alone to our room, I hung Kevin Freddy on the wall and smiled. We had made significant headway in building our class community, beginning with a feeling of safety and risk taking these little guys got from capitalizing on their impressions of a box turtle and subsequent conversations. These wee ones were able to share their ideas and become engaged in their own learning. Surely, this was just the first of many collaborations to come this year. Kevin Freddy serves as reminder that simple actions of listening and engaging children gives them both the permission and freedom to grow. And the for me, yields the added bonus of making all the effort so worth the investment!