When I applied to Tufts, I thought I would take a chance and apply to be a graduate teaching assistant at the child development department's lab school. Though I had student taught at NYU, I never considered being a real classroom teacher. I accepted the position in 2009 and started to realize that this gig was teaching me more about child development than I was learning in the department. The Children's School is a Utopian environment with a beautiful natural playground, brilliant teachers, and involved families. The catch of accepting this job is that it's a strict two-year commitment.
Today is my final day during the school's regular year. Though I'll be staying on to work there through July, I can't help but feel as if this is a big goodbye.
We had an amazing year! I primarily taught a two-day/week preschool program. There the head teacher and I focused on creating social experiences for the children and building a community. In addition, I was able to develop a unit around Where the Wild Things Are. We read the book in English, re-read it in Spanish trying to decipher the key words of the story, created Wild Things masks out of paper plates and small found objects, played "Max Says" (like Simon Says but including "Wild Rumpus," which means everyone has to dance, and "Be Still," was meant everyone had to freeze), and we created a dramatic play space to resemble the Wild Things' forest. I learned how much more care preschoolers need in the classroom, but I also learned how FUN preschool can be. Painting, bike-riding, sand play, baby dolls, a reading corner, clay art, songs and games: can I go back to preschool?
I spent the rest of my week in the Extended Day program for children ages 3 to 6. We focused on family culture and the circus! The year-long circus curriculum was unreal. My head teacher, fellow GTA, and I are currently thinking about how we can use our year of circus to develop a publication, perhaps a curriculum guide. Our year culminated in a circus presented for the school under our very own big top. I think circus supports confidence and creativity among children, and that was certainly the case for our students. Here's a picture of Caryn, Jacquelyn, and I after our big circus debut!
I strongly encourage all academics to take a step out of their comfort zone and into a classroom. You might just learn something.