“Are you ok?!” an outside teacher said when she saw the chaos of my classroom yesterday. I was kind of taken aback by the true concern in her voice.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I responded with a smile.
“Ok, it just looks a little crazy in here,” was her cautious response.
Truth be told, I had just been reflecting on that craziness before she walked in. I’m calling it graceful chaos.
See, on Wednesday my numbers are always at their highest. Inside time is always our craziest time of day. Because one of my children is truly unable to sit for any length of time, I let my students transition from the snack table directly to table choices as they finish eating. Today I set out the watertable, bristle blocks, and ocean animal painting for our sea life wall – two messy options and one unpopular option. Yes, I knew it was going to be a crazy day, so I embraced it. Bring it all on!
Tornado, first one to leave the table as always, headed straight to the watertable: water everywhere.
Those who wanted to paint ocean animals had their shot and then Spiderman remembered that he wanted to paint a box black to be a bat cave. Well, then everyone wanted a bat cave! Out came the big brushes and black paint. 8 kids crowded around 4 large boxes at 1 art table. Some painted the insides, some the outsides. Some painted every nook and corner. Some painted each other.
Black paint on the table. Black paint on the floor. Black paint on the chairs. Black paint on clothes, arms, and faces. Black paint all over me!
As the boxes dried outside, we washed. Black paint on the sink. Black paint on the mirror. Black paint everywhere!
And of course Tornado needed another dip in the watertable with his black painted hands.
The children couldn’t get the black off themselves, so I helped them at the sink. Those who washed first didn’t want to play in the now murky watertable or with boring bristle blocks, so they dumped all the soft items in pretend and had a makeshift pillow fight while I was busy in the bathroom.
At least there’s no paint on them.
But that other teacher hadn’t seen any of this.
What she saw was the kids now rallied. Pretend is clean. They play loudly, but happily, between 3 tables of small people, Legos, and Duplos, while I scrub, mop, and sanitize. Everything.
Yes. There was chaos. Imagine if she had walked in a half hour before!
But there was also fine motor development, creative exploration, increased spacial awareness, blossoming understanding of habitat, language development, problem solving, sharing, and kindness.
So yes. Chaos.
But at the same time, there is a certain grace to the way the learning just slipped into the mix. I didn’t plan bat caves. I didn’t sit us down at circle time and read a book about where bats live, although they might like me to do that now. A week or two ago the other preschool team learned ‘B’ is for Bat and made bats. And then some kids on my team thought that was pretty cool, and we’ve been talking about and making bats ever since. Bats aren’t even on the other team’s radar anymore!
But that’s what it’s like teaching preschoolers. Follow where they lead, and often the learning just slips in. Their curious natures are programed to learn. As teachers, we have to give them that opportunity.
And that process really is a bounteous, messy, fruitful, graceful chaos.
I like it so much, I might need to rename my blog!
Do you often feel the same way as a teacher? Let me know!