Today was Rowenna’s fourth week of preschool.
Something happened after our first school visit back in August – the visit I thought had gone wonderfully well. I got a phone call from Ms. T, and by the hesitation in her voice I knew she had something to say I wasn’t going to like.
She told me she didn’t think Rowenna would be safe on her own in the classroom. She worried about Rowenna’s developmental maturity. And ultimately, she asked that I attend school with Rowenna and essentially act as a one-on-one aide until Rowenna was ready to be on her own.
I had major concerns about this approach. First, the entire point of placing Rowenna in preschool was so she could have a few hours a week in a new environment and learn some skills for independence. We wanted her to be surrounded by same age peers. Having me hover over her for her own safety didn’t seem like the best way to work on independence skills, and I questioned how Rowenna would learn to feel secure with her teacher if I was still in the room. I did agree that Rowenna would need a little extra help at first, though.
We came to the agreement that I would serve more as a teacher’s aide, freeing up the two teachers to intervene when needed. We will reassess my need to be there on a weekly basis and eventually I will phase out and Rowenna will attend on her own. (Currently, we’re up to Rowenna being alone for 45 minutes, and I go outside to read and knit.) And though I wish Rowenna could fly solo from the start, I am glad her teacher was open, honest, and up-front about her concerns. I feel very good about working with her this year.
So I’ve had the opportunity to observe much more than I imagined. Rowenna’s strengths and weaknesses are in sharp focus right now, giving me a lot to think about and work on with my sweet girl.
Most eye-opening is watching the other kids interact with her. The class has embraced her. Each day, at least one child has brought over something to work on with Rowenna. (In Montessori school, we don’t play, we “work.”) They are welcoming her hugs (this appears to be Rowenna’s current method of greeting someone), and they are quick to come up to me to say something about her. So far, I’ve heard that “she talks sometimes” and “she crawls like a caterpillar.” Another child noticed they both had bows on their shirts, and she was happy to report that she and Rowenna were “the same.” My heart soars to know that right now my girl is just one of the bunch.
I’d be lying if I said it was easy to watch these 2 year olds walk, jump, and run. They can take a piece of work from a shelf, carry it to a table, and sit down to play. They can serve their own food and set their own place for snack. (It’s all very classy – placemats and everything.) They can follow directions.
But then I also have the pleasure of watching Rowenna demonstrate her incredible attention span. I watch her play with play-dough without trying to eat it, rolling it out with a tiny rolling pin and making cut outs with cookie cutters. I see her standing proudly at the easel, drawing with chalk on one side, painting on the other – the first time using a paint brush. I watch her make a choice from a selection of books, or put a doll in a tiny stroller and push it around. Today she set up her own activity station – got out the place mat, carried the supplies over, and sat down to work. I know what it took to get her this far, all of her hard work and all of her curiosity – and where others see a deficit, I can only celebrate.
I still feel good about this choice for Rowenna. I am excited for the things she will learn this year.