One thing that I noticed in the first few days of January was the level of independence that the children have now. So much of our work is focused on self-regulation and community that it takes that holiday break to look at the classroom community (and individual children) with fresh eyes. I recall September being an endless whirlwind of grabbing, screaming, zipping, unzipping, dressing, undressing, and emotion. Today I stood and put on my own shoes to go outside as the children put on their own shoes. It is the simple things that are so hard to see when they are so ingrained in our daily routines: stepping back puts a different light on it all.
I've also been hearing more conversations between children, seeing them interact without the mediation of myself or another teacher. They invite each other to play; they are able to clearly state if they would like to be left alone; they don't pull each other's socks off! The development of their relationships has been far from linear. In the early years, a child is just another kid one day and a best friend the next, and that new openness to peer interaction is a wonderful thing to see.
All of these things said, the goal of preschool (or life) is not to float along in a conflict-free bubble. Conflicts are what got us to where we are now. And with fewer children needing support for small problems, we open up our time to different problems, questions, and curiosities. We take the time to work on every problem that arises because that is our work in early childhood.
As I enter the new calendar year, with fresh eyes on the school year, I think a lot about my role with these children, in this community. In September, in the children's eyes, I am a playmate and a grown-up. I can help them with complicated things like opening a container or getting dry clothes. I can read a story or get clean water for the paintbrushes. I can pretend to be a dinosaur who loves apples and peanut butter! The evolution of my relationship with each child as an individual and with the group, as well as their relationships with each other, has been our real work this school year. It has been an absolute pleasure to see children turn to each other rather than me when they need their jackets zipped. I have the luxury of spending more and more time observing and documenting as I play the role that I truly love: facilitator.