As I rushed to finish my snowman project my preschool teacher reminded me again that it was time to go take the class picture. I don’t remember the words she used but I remember feeling that I wasn’t done. Although I was the only child left in the room, I decided to keep working. I remember having only ever seen snowmen in pictures. I pasted cotton ball after cotton ball with my popsicle stick ignoring the heed to finish.
Then… it happened.
As I put the popsicle stick back into the tall jar it tipped and the glue poured out. I rushed to try and contain the flood but I only made matters worse. My hands were covered in glue as I tried shoveling it back into the jar before my teacher noticed. I froze as she walked over to the work table.
I can’t remember what she said to me, but I remember she screamed it. I was mortified and crying with glue covered hands. I remember the embarrassment as I watched the mess spread. I remember the rush of trying to scoop up the glue. I remember the shock and fear as I was yelled at. I remember the tears still on my face as I tried to smile for the class photo.
Sadly, this is my only memory of preschool.
It’s the rare person who remembers anything about their preschool experience. But it’s important that preschoolers’ everyday experiences build a foundation for later learning. For me, the goal is to be a stable, trusting, creative, energetic, and empathetic figure in the children’s lives. I seek to understand them so that I can provide for them a wholly enriching experience. I savor their wisdom and zest. I marvel in their quest to understand the world and the mysteries of the universe. We get messy and dirty while playing.
Most importantly I tread lightly. My early preschool experience shapes every single day I work with kids. I have experienced, as I think almost all childcare professionals and parents have, the frustration and loss of patience my preschool teacher must have felt. If I can use my voice to deter an injury, I do. If I need to place my body between two children who have resorted to fisticuffs, I do. I also know deep in my heart that no matter what, each child is wonderful and special. I tread lightly and seek to understand the root of a conflict. I respect both sides of a story, and provide the space for that story to be told.
Although my only preschool memory is negative, I have no doubt that I spent those crucial years of my life in a loving and caring environment. My parents would have it no other way. Unfortunately the memory I’ve kept is of that tall jar of white Elmer’s glue tipping and falling, and the consequent scolding.
With my preschool memory in place I show up at Seedlings each morning and secretly hope someone will spill the glue. Because then I’ll get a chance to help them clean it up and try again.
© Jonathan Iris-Wilbanks and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2011
Photos © Haidor Truu and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2011
My only vivid preschool memory is of an art project–drawing a Christmas tree that was later put on a plate–that was taken out of my hands. I thought I was done, and I was pleased with my drawing. The teacher made “suggestions.” Trying to please, I added ornaments in the center of the tree to go along with the ones I’d painstakingly drawn on the edges. But I didn’t really want to do it, and I only put three big ones, which didn’t match the small careful ones on the edges. The tree looks like a stoplight, which I know because I still have the plate. I use it as a paint palette when my children are painting–THEIR paintings, THEIR thoughts, THEIR vision, not mine. You can bet that experience informs every word I say to my children about THEIR artwork.
Lucky kids to have you, Jonathan!
We are all so lucky to have you as a major part of our preschool experience!!
I didn’t go to preschool, but I went to bible school. I remember food that we ate like Graham crackers and apple juice. I also remember making something that required us to pick strawberry or poppy. I chose poppy to be different and I hated it. I liked making food then, I still love it today.
It’s so important to remember who’s at work! 🙂
Not always easy, and I have to work hard to catch myself all the time. I love playing but have to remember really who’s play it is. I had similar stories with art growing up where a teacher was giving “suggestions.”
Thanks for the comment Amy!
Rebel Rebel! I still love apple juice though. 🙂
Thanks for the comment Kelly!
I love being a part of our co-op! I learn so much every day I’m there.
We’re lucky to have you and your family Cindy!