From recording observations, to becoming a child with children, to recognising and seizing teaching moments, it is all part of a day’s work for an ECE teacher. In this article TRC-IECE graduate Huma Navid walks the reader through her busy (and sometimes unpredictable) day as a kindergarten teacher and also talks about why passion and solid training are vital for the job.
Even though I plan the day thoughtfully a week ahead, each new day as a kindergarten teacher brings a new set of challenges and surprises. The day begins with Greeting Time during which we are all smiles, as children say goodbye to their parents and the class is engaged in an interesting activity, till everybody arrives. While we work, I hear a loud siren approaching my classroom. Before I have time to panic, the door opens and there he is, the boy who cries everyday as he arrives in school. I take his hand and my mind starts racing about how to distract him and keep him busy.
“Oh really?” I say, “My mistake”. He is quiet, but not really interested. I sigh, half the battle is won. I quickly cook up a few more ideas to engage him, and we are back in business!
As today is Friday, children are interested in sharing their plans for the weekend and we write them down as they tell them to us. A hand goes up and the little one is asked what he would like to share. He gets up from his place, comes over to me, pulls up a chair, sits with his legs crossed, arms folded on his chest and says “I have something very important to tell you”. Everybody is naturally interested and he says, “The transparent in my house caught fire and a fireman came to my house”. You have to be able to read a child’s mind to figure out that by ‘transparent’ he actually meant that it was the ‘transformer’ that caught fire. When the situation was clearly explained to everyone, another hand went up, “My transformer also got fire and my switch also got fire. I switched it off.”
For a teacher this is a teaching moment and I seize this opportunity to explain safety rules. Children are not supposed to play with switchboards and electrical sockets and they are not supposed to take Mama’s mobile phone out while it is being charged. They are to call an adult if they see something wrong.
After Story Time it is time to stretch our limbs, so we head outdoors. Today my kindergarteners want me to catch them as they run. I sing a song as I run after them: “One way or another, I’m going to get you! Get you! Get you!” It is only when I get tired that I ask them to play another game, as I cannot match their energy level. We opt for Rolly Polly. I am asked to sing and include different actions such as slide, slither, hop and roll down, as the children follow the actions up and down the little hill.
Back in the classroom we have Music Time, which everyone enjoys thoroughly. We sing and dance to our favourite rhymes and songs. Our hot favourites are the ‘Snake Dance’ and ‘Robot Dance’.
During Snack Time, my children are also interested in what I have brought for snack, so I show them my sandwich and fruit. I notice one particular child sitting and staring at me. When I ask her what the matter is, she says, “I don’t like the chocolate sandwich my Mama gave me”. After considerable negotiation, we agree that half of it will be eaten and that I will discuss this matter with her Mama at Home Time.
During Language Time we sing phonic songs and do a rhyming word activity. Today I pretend that my marker can only write ‘AT’ on the whiteboard. The children ask me to close my eyes and say some magic words. As I do, they read aloud the ‘ATs’ written down. We add a consonant at the beginning to form new words and to reinforce it we learn a rhyme: “A big fat cat sat on a mat”. Everybody tries to say it as fast as they can, like a tongue twister and we all giggle and laugh together.
The next important segment is Activity Time. We plan to do some sorting and counting using different shapes of pasta. I facilitate each child and challenge them appropriately. While doing so, I am jotting down where and who needs further guidance.
Next we move on to the Plan-Do-Review segment. We join as a large group to decide and share our ideas for today. After everybody has selected an interest area, I join a group of children in the Blocks’ Area. They are busy creating a cinema for the plastic people (figures). They use a tool-kit for seating the people and a wooden wall of blocks as the screen. When I ask them where people will park their cars, they quickly extend the side using blocks to form a parking lot. Roles are assigned to the group regarding who will help park the cars, give out the tickets and sell the popcorn. During this construction a constant supply of pretend food keeps pouring in from the Kitchen Corner. Today’s menu is quite interesting with fruit biryani, strawberry juice, plenty of tea and fried fish. We pay for the service and thank them.
Another group is busy with play dough, forming it into octopuses and horses. A girl points out that her friend has taken too much dough which is falling off the table. He sees it and quickly runs to get the dustpan and a brush to wipe the floor. He forgets all about his play dough, and pushes the chairs out asking the children to step aside as he cleans the floor. When he reaches the other side of the table and asks a peer to move aside, he refuses to do so, saying, “I dropped it, and I will clean it up myself”. He asks for the dust pan, but our willing cleaner is not ready to share. I had to step in to resolve the situation by saying, “Let him clean his side, then he will give you the dustpan, as it is his responsibility to clean his side”. A child who was creating a necklace with colourful beads approaches me to tie a knot at the two ends, so that he can put it around his neck. He counts off the number of red, purple and yellow beads and tells me that he used more yellow ones today. As he is sharing his accomplishment, another child is observing him carefully and goes on to make a necklace for himself. As he starts to pass the bead into the string, it slides off the other end and rolls on the floor. He giggles and crawls after the bead and brings it back. This time he places the beaded end of the string on the table.
I look at the clock and start singing the Cleanup Song and the children start to pack up, putting all the material in the designated places. When we settle for Review Time one little girl points to the Kitchen Corner, “It is still messy, they did not pack up properly” she informs us. She takes permission to go and organise everything. Children share the new things they did in the different corners and the problems they faced. The play dough group complained that they could not finish their work within the allotted time, as they were asked to step aside and the cleaner was taking a long time to sweep the floor. I ask for solutions. After an argument and a lot of thinking, it is decided that for next time the cleaner should announce that he is about to clean, so everybody moves out of their chairs at the same time and he quickly cleans the area. This way everyone can resume work quickly.
The day has come to an end and the children get their things ready. Their writing homework is placed in their bags and while we wait for the parents, we sing songs. I remember that I have to talk to a mother about chocolate sandwiches. I also have to discuss the morning blues issue with another parent. As the last goodbyes are said, my day with the children comes to an end.
As I sit and jot down my observations of the children, I smile over the things they said and did. Thinking about my day, I reflect on the ways that I try to apply all that I learnt during my ECE Certificate Programme at TRC-IECE, and what I learnt through my experience. All this is possible only if we truly care about children and are committed to working with them and nurturing their growth and development.
Huma Navid is a TRC-IECE graduate. She has been working with kindergartners for the past ten years at Mrs Haques Nursery and now at Haque Academy. She has conducted several in-house workshops for teachers and parents on different topics and issues related to children.