Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cooperative Preschool

Today was Alex's first day of preschool with Teacher Tom. She walked right into the preschool knowing full well that she had to first wash her hands before diving into the fun. This, after all, is her second year as a preschooler so she walked in already familiar with the lay of the land.

The bulk of the preschool is less about the school itself, but rather it's about the children, the parents, the Parent Educator and the entire co-op community that makes it all work. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the core component, the duct tape that holds it altogether and makes it unique and cool is the teacher. Teacher Tom is not your average preschool teacher, in fact, he's not average in any way. He's a writer, blogger, artist, parent educator and for a few hours each day he's a teacher.
Alex is the proud creator of this piece called, "placemat". This picture will be laminated and used as her placemat during snack for the rest of the year.
This morning when I arrived at school ready to work my station, the sensory table, I could feel all the comforts of home welling up inside me. For the past 5 years, this preschool has served as my home away from home. Me, along with all the parents of this co-op collaborate in taking care of it, from putting toys away, to wiping down counters and even mopping the floors and cleaning the toilets. It's a team effort by all accounts. Sometimes I struggle with separating my "working" role at the preschool and spend too much time doing the "socializing" part of preschool. Admittedly, I enjoy interacting with the other parents and sometimes forget that my main duty is to engage with the children. Preschool has become such a familiar place that I often have to remind myself that I'm not at home but rather that I'm there to work, not to chat. I'll be in mid conversation with another parent, see Teacher Tom heading in my direction and quickly get back to the business at hand, tending to my station, as if I'd been doing it all along. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is just a little too relaxed during my work day. Right? I'm not the only one.

After this year, Alex has only 1 year left to go at this preschool and then she'll be off to kindgergarten. I'm going to miss this place something awful when that day comes. I've made so many friendships here, celebrated so many joys, and was the recipient of genuine care when we had a medical crisis in our family. It was a place that maintained normality even when the rest of my life at the time, was in turmoil.

Now that I've had a taste of public school with my oldest daughter who is in the 1st Grade, I've come to realize how rare of an experience Teacher Tom's preschool really is. The sense of community and connectedness decreases once you enter primary school and I'm sure it will dissolve vastly by the time my girls reach high school. And while this realization saddens me to some degree I also realizes the importance of allowing my tethered children the freedom to establish their own relationships and boundaries without yours truly trailing behind them.

In the end, preschool will have served its purpose in preparing my children for elementary school. It will have served its purpose of teaching my children independence and how to hold their own on the playground just by the simple act of extending their arm in a halting fashion and with a firm voice to say, "STOP!" when something is happening that they do not wish to continue. Preschool will have served its purpose in introducing just how effective a community can be when everyone participates in collectively caring for the people and the things within the community. Preschool will have served its purpose in teaching my children the importance of following the rules and identifying what is "the right thing to do."

Listen to me, I make it sound like today was the last day of school rather than the first day and I shouldn't sound so glum. It's difficult to live in the moment. With each year that passes comes the desparate need to hold on to the past; these preschool years are definitely something that I regard as precious time spent. Today marks the start of my 6th year in co-op preschool and I'm excited. I'm going to do my best to make the most of these final years.

1 comment:

  1. Ariya also had a great first day! We were so happy to see our friends from last year and excited to make new ones, and of course, Teacher Tom. Ariya is already wondering when he is going to get a new placement with photos of all his friends. Alex was super sweet and came specially up to me to give me a hug. I was touched and glad that she remembers me from last year. I was amazed at how more grown up all the pre-3-ers are and how easily they adjusted to their first day. I was also amazed watching Alex play with the older girls (I guess she knows them from outside of preschool) - it really is a different kind of play. I look forward to another year together, laughing, learning, living.

    -Aya Sethi