So why do I work as a preschool teacher?
Well, its because I think its the most important job in the world. I think allowing children to have the best possible start in life is their right - whether it be at home or in a preschool.
I believe that all children have the right to reach their potential, to be seen and appreciated for who they are. Children have the right to play, to make mistakes and learn from them - just as any human does. They have the right to be heard. They have the right to try out new things or to observe and try out later. They have the right to learn in the way that is right for them - some learn fast others learn slow, some learn quietly other learn noisily. Its about respect - my respect for the children - but also helping them to learn respect for themselves and the ability to respect that the needs of others are different.
One of my favourite art activities I have done with children to create an understanding of everyone is different and yet we are the same was when we did a still life. A group of 18 five year olds sat round a bowl of fruit and they has to describe what they saw in front of them. The surprise on faces when some children explained that there was a banana at the front of the bowl was priceless - I mean there was an apple at the front of the bowl from where they sat. We stood up and walked around the bowl seeing how it changed depending on our perspective. We discussed how this related to things that happened in the studio or the building block area or outside in the yard ... the children began to understand that it was easy to misunderstand each other - and how sometimes when someone accidently knocked another child it was perceived that they had done it on purpose. We talked and talked. Then we divided into groups of six to draw our still life. The comment that has remained most vivid in my memory was when one of the children exclaimed loudly that another child had drawn her apple too big. The girl with the big apple looked down in dismay feeling that she had got it all wrong. So I invited the first child to walk around the table and come and see the fruit bowl from the same side as the now downhearted girl. He got up came round and exclaimed "It IS big from over here". There were smiles and apologies and then the discussion went back to how easy it was to assume someone else was wrong when you see it from your own point of view - and that it's important to sometimes go round and experience things in a new way.
I think being in the art studio is one of my favourite places to be with children...
I think a great deal of what I write here will find itself coming from that room..