Our fall season started this past week, and my class marked the occasion by beginning a unit on transportation. Please understand that when I say we started a new unit, it doesn’t mean that we focused on nothing but cars, trucks, trains, and planes all day every day for a week. This is how our exploration went down:
On Monday I introduced some laminated strips of black construction paper that we were going to use to make roads for the little plastic cars that I had just added to the block area. We made roads for about fifteen minutes on Monday, and the pieces of road went largely unused for the remainder of the week. That is, they went unused until Friday, when two of the children got them out and proceeded to put them together into a road.
They worked together for a while, but they became frustrated when they ran their cars on the road and it wouldn’t stay together. So we got out the masking tape and they worked to tape the strips to the carpet. Several other kids had joined them by this time, and we all had a wonderful time taping the strips to the carpet. It was amazing to watch the kids concentrate on holding the tape without letting it touch itself, concentrate on trying to untangle the tape if it got stuck to itself, and concentrate on putting the tape on just the right spot on the strips.
I took lots of pictures and am planning to do a very thorough documentation of the experience, as well as any similar experiences that come along in the future (because of the company I work for I do not post pictures on my blog, in case anyone was wondering). But as I was taking the pictures and reveling in how involved and focused the children were, it occurred to me that two of the participants will be moving to a different classroom in a few days. I will not be able to follow their progress in this activity any more; I don’t even know if they will be doing this activity in their new classroom.
I remember reading during my investigations into Reggio Emilia that teachers there stay with the same class the entire time they are at the school. Children move from classroom to classroom every year, but the teachers go with them. This has so many positives, because teachers know so much about a certain child’s learning style and how they approach a project. The teachers learn about the temperament of the whole class, as well as the individual children. They are familiar with the interests of the children, as well as how they have progressed developmentally. If children have to have different teachers every single year, those teachers have to become familiar with new children all over again. Children also have to get used to new teaching styles, which can be a shock if the style is very different from the classroom they were in previously.
It hurts my heart that I will not be able to follow the development of those two children, and I know that they will probably not experience the joy of the project that we had just worked on again. We have so much fun revisiting projects in my classroom and expanding on them any way that we can, and I saw aspects of their development that I hadn’t really paid attention to before. It has caused me to approach observation and documentation with renewed and increased vigor, and to plan projects intentionally. I can only hope that those two children will receive the same care and vigilance on the part of the teachers in their new classroom.