This year, I moved to a new school. Just like at a few previous schools, Before and After Care share our kindergarten classrooms. When I started teaching at schools with Before and After Care programs, the thought of losing my space to them was incredibly stressful. Or, at least, I perceived it as losing my space to them. I like to come to school early. I’m usually the first one there at 6:45. I’d come even earlier if I was allowed. I enjoy the quiet of the morning, and the ability to get things done in the classroom when the school isn’t busy. I like this quiet time after school too, and while I usually stay at school late (at least until 5:00, and usually until about 5:45), I’m far less productive after school. There are more people in the building, I’m tired after a full day of teaching, and once my teaching partner, Paula, and I have done some planning and reflecting together, sometimes I just want to sit there and be. With all of this in mind then, I guess it’s not surprising when I wrote this Before Care Program reflection last year. But my change of school this year came with one other change that I wasn’t expecting: having both Before and After Care in our classroom for 3 1/2 months. What?!
I will admit that with all of the changes that this new school year brought, this knowledge caused me the most stress. Recently, a conversation with the Y Program facilitators made me aware that they were stressed by this news too. They see me in there early, and they know that I stay late, so how could they share a space with us when they know that I never leave? Their honesty made me realize that as I was working through my own stress, I never even considered their perspective. I wish now that I did. But, strangely enough, we were both in for a surprise: sharing space was actually far better than either of us thought.
- By being in the room together, we were able to talk more. We could both lend some insight and share some strategies for different students, and in the end, we are now both able to support kids better.
- Interests can now span the school day. The holidays had all of our students talking. When the Y Program facilitators are in the classroom each morning, they usually do some planning together before the students arrive. I was able to listen in and observe some of their plans in action, and some interests from the early morning, spanned into our room during the school day. We began to share materials. Conversations that kids had in the classroom — about the environment and the care for the earth — extended to the Y Program. Students also began to comment on their learning during the school day with their friends in the Y. One child shared about different holiday celebrations, and how she learned that not everyone celebrates Christmas, and that’s okay. Acceptance. Diversity. Friendship. A little bit of all three spanned the school day. Paula and I even have some new ideas for next year, which are always appreciated!
- We can support students before the school day even begins. When the Before Care Program was in another classroom, I often overheard some of the conversations, but I missed many. Kids may have come in upset. Possibly dysregulated. But Paula and I never really knew until the children showed up in our classrooms. Now we get a sneak peek on how things are going, which students might need some more support during the school day, and what’s working best for kids. This helps as we continue to support our kids once the Y Program ends.
- I get to connect with new students. It’s easy to get lost in Kinderland. All of my duties are down the kindergarten hallway, I don’t leave the room much, and while I know the names of all of the kindergarten children, I have very few connections to the rest of the school. Many parents and students though come through our classroom doors each morning on their way to Before Care. By observing and connecting with the Y Staff, I now know the names of these students and what matters to them. Yesterday I was surprised with a few presents — one of which I photographed and shared — that came from children not in our class. Why did I receive these gifts? It turns out that these connections each morning, matter. Thanks to the Y Program, I’ve gotten to know more students in the school, made a few more connections with parents, and was even reminded that sometimes it’s the smallest things that can make the biggest impact!
Yes, our 3 1/2 month stint with Before and After Care means that my quiet mornings are a little less quiet. I have figured out though that most students don’t come until after 8:00. The Y Program facilitators also like quiet conversations, and not loud screaming, so they really support these types of interactions with kids … just as Paula and I do. The noise then is far less than I thought it would be, and I’m actually getting used to this quiet hum. I’ve also formed some relationships with the Y Staff that I don’t think that I ever would have formed if we didn’t share a space. I actually look forward to our discussions each day. After school, they also take the kids outside for about an hour, which gives Paula and I a chance for some kid talk, group reflection, and planning before they return. I’ve found that the little desk area near the door, which we never use as a desk for us but as an independent work space for kids, is perfect for me once the Y returns. A few kids still come over to chat, but I can block out some of the noise over in this little corner area, upload some documentation, and get things organized for the next school day. Plus I get to connect with many parents and kids before they go home. A win!
I realize now that I made assumptions before having the experience. The next 3 1/2 months may not be my old normal, but it is my new normal, and I’m okay with that. There’s often talk in kindergarten about a seemless day. We have the potential to have this happen more as we connect and plan with the Y. I’m excited about the possibilities. How do you make these connections at your school? What might be the benefits for kids? I know that I’m speaking now about the Before and After Care Kindergarten Programs, but our school is full of programs for multiple grades. I wonder if teacher connections in these other grades would be just as valuable. There’s so much that we can learn from each other.