It’s not just ‘PLAY’- SCHOOL

By Priyanka Shukla

Podcast by Miss Anukriti Awasthi

You can listen to the podcast here

Yesterday while I was enjoying morning coffee at my balcony, some tiny footsteps gazing at me made my morning special with their smiling faces. Their twinkling eyes and vibrant gestures reminded me about my preschool days before COVID -19. I work as an early childhood educator; and just as with any other job, I have to address many queries throughout the day- kids in my case!

Highlighting a typical day of an early childhood educator

As expected, mornings are the most chaotic part of the day, involving a lot of hush-hush before completing your daily and household chores and finally arriving at work. Almost immediately after the arrival, we don’t have time for tea/coffee to tick in, as children have already started entering the classrooms.  Our job mandates us to welcome children in a way that makes them excited to be there and unfettered with the impending departure of their parents.

“YES! YOU CAN BE HAPPY AND SAD AT THE SAME TIME.”

Amid rushy exchanges with parents on their way to work, you might be entrusted with varying degrees of responsibilities by them. It might be a bottle of cough syrup to be administered to their ward after lunch, to requests such as “Please make sure she has her lunch today”, or even notes on how that child has been putting up since morning (“Today, she didn’t  pooped properly in morning, please make sure she is fine”).

These are just a few examples of the information you’re expected to keep in your brain about each child. Of course, if the parents at your school are as wonderful as most of mine, these instructions and requests are delivered with grateful smiles. But multiplied by the number of kids in your class, it adds up to a lot of information to retain.

Looking at it from the kids’ perspective & some narratives from our school

“HEY, THIS IS FUN! A LOT MORE FUN THAN CRYING!”

The time in school is intense for the kids too. They’ve just left the comfy embrace of their parents and home, only to find themselves in a bustling playground. That too, filled with competitors for toys and attention. They are understandably distraught towards the beginning, and hesitantly scan the playground for allies. While some are thrilled to see their friends and enjoy the playground swings together, others find the transition less joyful. Torn from a world where they were treated in a special manner, as the center of attention, they are now thrust into the harsh new reality of school, where they’re as equal as any other child. They fear it, hate it, and don’t fully grasp the idea; and they won’t for another few years at least.


IT’S VERY EASY TO BE A BEAR

Playtime is at the heart of many preschools’ curriculum. At my school we spend a lot of our time outside, which is wonderful. This time of day, I find myself really enjoying the company of the tiny tots. It’s pretty impossible not to feel happy when you look around the room and see a bunch of little angels, who appear like gnomes happily mining magic stones from inside a mountain, like daffodils growing out of the ground, or bears running here and there for a bear hug.


LUNCH HOUR IS THE BEST HOUR OF THE DAY

Despite the difficulty of getting everyone through the hand-washing process and making them sit relatively quietly at the table, lunch-time is an enjoyable part of the day. It’s a chance to be together and a great opportunity to be a part of some funnily interesting dialogues between the novice socializers.

I’m sure you weren’t aware of these fun facts during your own preschool days. Letting you know of some magical secrets about the lunch time that I have observed as an educator, that everyone is super excited about the food that gets served.


“I JUST WENT FOR POOP AND THEN ALL MY CLOTHES FELL OFF.”

Getting the kids suited up is challenging all by itself, but consider what happens when a child is playing outside and doesn’t realize or sense the call of nature. I have been a frequent witness of how swiftly and quietly though, a pair of rain pants can channel a stream of pee directly into a rubber boot.

I could go into further detail about toilet-related stories here, but I’m sure that’s a whole article of its own. Just know this, they are numerous. Any preschool educator could tell you tales of pee and poop that would curl your hair. You won’t get far in this profession with a weak heart- as you are expected to be kind and compassionate enough to get that need of hour addressed.


PLAYING IS OUR BRAIN’S FAVORITE ROUTE TO LEARNING

Apart from toys, we feel children should be given educational activity boxes to play with. These play-based educational activities enable kids to create new things, find different ways of solving challenges, and learn their lessons by performing certain cognitive ability based tasks. For this, you have to round everyone up to come inside first. This is no small feat, as some children literally kick and scream every day to stay in the playground a little longer. They have to be constantly persuaded to be lined up and come back to the classroom. Yet another daunting task is helping them wash their hands and seat them calmly at their place.

This may sound and seem quite simple, but trust me that’s an uphill task! You can’t just tell a three-year-old, “Wash your hands”. You have to say a series of instructions after repeated pauses; that too, in a streamlined manner. “Walk over to the sink. Stand on the stool. Lift up the faucet handle. Push down the soap dispenser. Scrub your hands. Rinse your hands. Turn off the water. Dry your hands. Come back. Sit in your chair.” And you have to repeat it several times, sometimes in the form of a song, with actions and motions of hand. Even then, many of them will either stare at you like you’re crazy, engage in some sort of water play with a friend (to which we say “Save some for the fishes!”), or go off and do whatever they find more interesting at that particular moment. Phew!!!


“ALWAYS SAY GOOD BYE”

Unlike morning drop-offs, which are often full of tears, watching the joyful reunions of kids and parents, at the day’s end, is truly heart touching.


Being a teacher, parent, or caregiver is one of the hardest jobs you can have. Given its arduous nature, one can never discount the important role it plays in shaping a child’s future. If you have chosen to do this job – Thank You! The world needs more people like you so as to keep going smoothly. It’s often exhausting and frustrating to be doing same set of activities over and again; but each time anyone in this profession gets bogged down, just take a breath and remember that: “There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air is softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again” (Elizabeth Lawrence)

The author is the Centre Head of Sperowz, Lucknow branch & coordinator of an NGO working in the domain of special children

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