Thursday, December 14, 2006

First Day of High School

Last night a friend called to ask for assistance on behalf of her mother. Her mom teaches child development at a local high school, and today the class was supposed to observe and interact with toddlers. The only thing was that they had no toddlers. Makes observation tricky. So this morning Elise and I went to the high school. It was an interesting experience. First off, I don't think I've been to a high school during school hours since I was in high school, going on ten years ago. It doesn't look like much has changed.

Fortunately, another friend had also agreed to go, and she brought her 17-month old son. I don't think the kids necessarily cared, but it was nice for me to have someone I knew there to talk to. There were only five kids - little kids, that is - there, and probably about 20 teenagers. The teenagers all had little stations set up with a different activity at each, Montessori style, and the toddlers were free to play at whichever station they pleased. Elise and Colin both beelined to the blocks. After a while, they went back and forth between the blocks and the confetti. That's right, confetti. One group of teenagers had a large, shallow plastic tub full of confetti - actually circles made by paper hole punchers, which apparently a local printer had saved for them. The little kids had a great time with it, and it was fun to watch them, knowing that I wasn't going to have to clean it up.

Elise seemed to have a lot of fun. I tried not to direct or help her too much, as the point was for the students to observe toddler behavior. Every once in a while she would fall (the floor was hard, slippery linoleum, typical of schools, and once the confetti was spread around, it was really slippery) and would come over for a kiss, or she'd get a piece of confetti stuck to her hand and would come over to have it removed (she hates having things stuck on her hands), but other than that, she pretty well ignored me.

Watching the teenagers was entertaining. It was easy to pick out who had been around little kids before and who hadn't. One group was supervising finger painting, and the teacher had to remind them to wash the toddlers' hands afterwards. My friend and I were amused by that, because we wouldn't even think about doing something like that - it was just be an automatic reaction. You don't let a two year old get away with his hands covered in wet paint. Another student came in towards the end of the class and immediately laid on his stomach on the floor and started playing with the toys, so he was at the toddlers' level. When Elise tripped on a block and started wobbling, he stabilized her with his hands in front and back of her. This boy has been around little kids before.

We were just there for 45 minutes, but it gave Elise a chance to play with other children and explore some new toys and activities. The teacher commented that, for being an only child, Elise seemed remarkably comfortable in playing with other children, trying new activities, and interacting with strange adults (well, teenagers) without me having to be right at her side. That made me happy. I don't really worry about her social development, because I don't believe that very young children need constant social stimulation for healthy development. The trend of daycares, playgroups, and preschools is, after all, a fairly recent one. That said, I do sometimes feel very sorry that she is an only child at this point, because she so loves to play with other children, and - this will sound silly - I'm afraid she gets lonely. I know that she eventually won't remember a time when she didn't have younger siblings, and she won't harbor resentment over having to play alone for the first few years of life, but still...Maybe I feel this way because it is something I personally have no experience with, being the fifth of ten children. Playing alone? There were days when I would have done anything for the chance to play alone. Well, anyway, I try to play with Elise a lot myself. I try to take advantage of her naptime by completing my highest priority tasks during that time. That way, when she is awake, I can stop what I'm doing to play with her if she wants me to. At the same time, I want to teach her to be patient and not demanding, but there are times when I simply can't stop what I'm doing to play with her, and I think those times are frequent enough to teach the lessons of patience and, in a way, humility, so when I can put aside whatever I'm doing when she asks for my attention, I try to do that. (Hmm. That was quite the run-on sentence.) And that is a comfort to me. Elise may not get as much social interaction as her daycare peers, but she gets a heck of a lot more one-on-one attention and love than they do. (I do NOT mean that parents of daycare children love their children any less. I just mean I get the chance to exhibit my love for Elise more often, because I see her more often.)

So, that was Elise's first day of high school. It came a lot faster than I expected it would. It was a little bit disturbing to realize that when I was their age, the high school students I met today were Elise's age. Yep, I'm old.


janenetindall said...

What exactly IS Montessori? I've always wondered...

Holly said...

My understanding of Montessori, which in entirely limited, is that it is a theory of education where children are encouraged to focus on areas to which they are naturally drawn. Johnny might spend hours on art, and might spend no time at all on math. At least I think that's how it works in preschool groups. I'm not sure how they make it work for older kids. But your mom would probably know!