I am missing the children. I know they are missing me. Learning will always happen, these tender moments won’t. In the past two weeks our class has completely changed. Yet, change can be a good thing. Resilience is born. Let me start at the beginning, two weeks ago.
March was incredibly exciting at school. We have been learning about France, with great interest in our Big Book Atlas. Geography is brought to life. Oh, how we love to learn about new countries. Better said, oh how we love to learn. Our big atlas often gets us sidetracked in the best of ways. Sometimes we learn about north and south, the poles and the equator, and temperature. Sometimes we learn about oceans and volcanoes. Our satellite map makes it visible for children. Sometimes we get sidetracked on the map of the United States. Before school closed we found Wisconsin. That was important to our chapter reading book, Little House in the Big Woods.
Can you picture the excitement of finding France, then getting carried away with more? I embrace every moment when that happens. Children want to learn more than what’s in my lesson plans. It’s called emergent curriculum, learning that is driven by the interests of the children. Yes, I still teach what I planned to teach, but I never shut the box on children’s questions and what they are eager to learn. It’s a walk in the woods that are enchanted, and have different pathways, yet all end up at the same place.
Back to France. Geography is always the kickoff, and from there we learned to sing the Days of the Week in French, and learned things that came from France – like the hot air balloon and scuba gear. We then began to learn about art and the old masters. We looked carefully at Impressionism – particularly Monet, Matisse, and van Gogh. Starry Night hangs in the classroom. We talked about the swirls and the colors. We talked about Monet’s short brush strokes. Every painting seemed to be something children could understand. I kept asking the question:
“How did he do this? How?”
Then, as we looked at different paintings, I stopped at each one and said: “Landon, you could do this! Do you see the green trees across the center?”, or “Delaney, you could do this! Do you see the blues and whites in the swirl?” With every painting, I surprised a child with you can do this! Their faces lit up like fireworks. All it takes is a teacher to be excited and believe in you, especially in front of the whole class. And, they were excited. We began to paint, like real artists do, using paints squeezed from tubes onto a palette. Landon started his painting of Monet’s “Poppies”, and other children wanted to do their own Impressionism.
How were they motivated? Surely it was more than looking at the art. You bet it was! Music, of course. It is the purest gift of inspiration and feeling. It inspires art. I brought my record player to school along with classical record albums. The record player was like introducing Star Wars, something new and wondrous. I was slow in everything, including rubbing the needle to make loud sounds. Once I played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the music flowed into their hearts and out their fingers as they painted.
We painted for two days, with passion, and my record player playing great music. Then, schools closed. Teachers spent a full day cleaning and sanitizing everything. Everything! We quickly turned around to teach children online. Preschoolers don’t need worksheets and lessons, they need their teachers and direct learning.
Stay tuned for Part 2, the gigantic shift in teaching and keeping sameness for children.