I am closing in on the end of a very interesting 14 months working for a small non-profit organization dedicated to promoting seed-to-table education. I've learned an immense amount about gardening (and was inspired to take my county's master gardener course), and got to work with children in gardens. Although it has been a departure from how I have taught for years, it was a welcome one.
I have two big "take-aways" from this year.
One // I love planning and curriculum. I think I used to be a bit embarrassed of enjoying those things, mostly because it sounds like I enjoy telling children what to do with their time. I enjoy the research and brainstorming of planning, and I love being able to create prompts for children to explore freely. Planning can be about the environment, the materials, and the background knowledge - it does not need to be about the product. I love helping to plan what will help children embark on a process of learning through exploration. I'm much more willing to share my love of curriculum now that I have a better understanding of what that means. Curriculum conjures up images of textbooks and worksheets, but those are two of a million possibilities. Curriculum is about knowing children and priorities and goals, creating prompts, and connecting experiences.
Two // I'm not afraid of Elementary school. I spent the year working with a few preschoolers, yes, but most of my time was spent with Kindergarten through Fifth Graders. I saw groups of children for about 45 minutes at a time, but saw each group often enough that I felt a connection to their garden experiences. I was especially nervous about working with grades three to five, and I think that showed when I began the work. I have a very soft spot in my heart for preschoolers, but middle childhood is pretty great, too.
Those two take-aways were what made me say yes to a job offer last week. I will be working as a lead teacher in a small democratic school. The children are K-5 and it is one big mixed-age group. I'm preparing for a summer of research and reading and writing as I prepare for emergent curriculum with older children, council meetings, and a focus on social and emotional development. It is beyond exciting to me to get back into the classroom, to have a big focus on planning and curriculum development, and work closely with a small group of students every day : my favorite things about teaching.
So prepare for a bit more sharing about democratic education and emergent curriculum!