Tomorrow will begin a new school year in my classroom. I will get new three year olds, many returning children, a new coteacher, and a different schedule. I am excited for the new children to begin I suppose. I am trying to remind myself of all the three year old newness to keep in mind: help them remember to go to the bathroom frequently, help them stay engaged and celebrate every moment as a success, help them to know my name, and other children's names, read them stories, have out familiar things like crayons and playdoh and dress up clothes, introduce some new things like texture bins and tiny mice to pretend with, show them where the bathroom is again and when we have to change clothes for a third time smile and tell them how they are learning so much about their new school and big people things like getting themselves dressed and undressed.
I am noticing more than feeling excited, is the feeling of peacefulness and trust in the universe and its goals for me as a teacher and person. Each year I create goals for a thread within my curriculum to pull on and sew throughout the year: a positive attitude about all types of weather, what friendship means, appreciating artwork, and how to reflect on our learning through revisiting our experiences throughout the year. This year I want to develop a practice of gratitude. Because children innately and effortlessly celebrate and embrace the small things in life already, I don't see myself having a difficult time wrangling up ideas about what to be grateful for. I do think they will need a guide and model for how to instill the importance of their everyday gifts in the now: Being grateful for the trees that give us shade on the playground, being grateful for the windows that cover the whole side of our classroom so we can feel part of the outside world even when we are inside, the wave hello to friends and goodbye to families as they enter and exit the playground into school and the extra kiss they caught in their hands and tucked into their pockets. I want us to feel grateful for the social problem in the block area that taught us to listen to our friends and come up with a solution that they can both own and be part of. I want to feel grateful for the tears we shed when we hurt a friends feelings because it helped us to become empathetic and aware of how our actions impact others. I want to help them feel grateful for asking for help because when we ask for help, it lets others know what they need while also allowing others to share their gifts and talents with others. Gratitude will be a thread for them and for me. And I know I will probably have to be the one verbalizing these things for a while but I trust that in a few months, even after a few weeks, the children will pick up on being thankful and celebrating things that help us grow and see the world for all the love it holds.
Then I think about all of the things they will teach (and re-teach) me: kindness, patience, compassion, imagination, laughter, joy, curiosity, thoughtfulness, quietness, excitement, the ability to forgive, and the ability to have newness and change celebrated within their supportive and predictable routine. They teach me what being authentic is as they feel every feeling with honesty and 100% dedication. Like them, I want to keep learning about myself. I want to look up in the clouds and think about the shapes of the white swirling through the blue. I want to be a divergent thinker-a thinker who hasn't been told, "You can't do that" or "That isn't possible." I want to see my lessons and blessings within my everyday whether it is at group time or at the sink while I am washing my hands.
The funny thing is, I don't know if I am going to have these same children or this same classroom after two months. The teaching team I will work towards developing a trusting and cohesive relationship with will be uncertain in its timeline. The families I am helping to develop trust and understanding in their child's unique gifts and challenges might change to other families that I will have to do this with all over again in September. I am trying (very successfully right now) to see these next months as an opportunity to share gifts with each other, to share dreams and insights, and celebrate the growth we will see in each other. I will use my extra minutes in my commute (because of the time of day more time will be added onto my daily travel to and from work) to listen to more podcasts, meditations, audiobooks, and music that makes me feel peaceful and energized. My extra hour before I leave for work will give me time to develop new routines and practices that help me feel grounded and reflective in my journey. Because- I don't have any say over what will happen in the upcoming months, so why stress about it? And I feel really okay with it. Not indifferent per say because I plan on soaking in the moments with these children and my teaching team to their fullest, but relaxed I guess. I feel like what will happen will happen. The time I can share and lead this group of children to become a loving community of learners will be a gift to all of us. And as for this blog, I will try to capture some of their moments that radiate the wonder of being alive. I will share more of myself as well.
Wish me luck for dry clothes, kind words, supportive reflections, and a great first day of the new school year.
Cheers to being grateful, authentic, and alive.
Brittany Courchesne is an early childhood educator, teacher mentor to teachers in training, public speaker, and blogger.