It’s a typical Tuesday morning: outside the Lower School doors, I hear a teacher reminding students to walk quietly into the library and find a place to sit. The door opens, and in scramble 14 of the cutest kids you’ll ever see. They are excited to be in the library, and race in a pack toward the reading rug. Soon I am surrounded by eager faces and hands ready to launch into our customary opening song, “Open, Shut Them.” Sometimes there’s a little scuffle over a particular spot on the reading rug, and usually they forget how to stand in line, and sometimes there is an odor that signals assistance needed, but things in general are just great.
In August, I wasn’t 100% sure that would be the case.
This fall, our school added two 2-year-old classes to our Early Childhood program. The head of our lower school, as well as the twos-teachers, were excited about the idea of their classes coming to the library every week, learning how libraries “work,” and checking out books to share in the classroom and at home. I was excited too, from a purely fun perspective—but I had my doubts about how it would go IRL.
You see, I am not a control freak, per se (oh strike that, who am I kidding?!) But I also love books, and I love to read aloud, and I love to have fun in the library. So I was excited about that part of having the twos come up here, but I was also very trepidatious. I was comfortable with 3s, 4s, and Kindergarteners right up through 4th graders—but twos? The youngest would have just turned two before they started. How would that be? How would they learn library routines? How long would they be able to sit still? WHO WOULD CHANGE THEIR DIAPERS???
As I thought about these things before the start of school, I realized two things:
- I didn’t know exactly how things would go, and
- Everything was going to be fine
(Cue epiphany music)
Facing the uncertainty of teaching two-year-olds, like facing any uncertain, unpredictable situation (Ahem), requires that we stop and ask ourselves a fundamental question: What is Most Important. And then keep our eyes on that, come Hell or high water.
Here is what I came up with:
- Making the library a welcoming place
- Fostering excitement about reading
- Providing high-quality materials for students and teachers
- Ensuring that someone else was the designated diaper-changer
To accomplish these things with 2-year-olds—or in any changeable situation, I must:
- Stay “nimble” (I love it when I can use a buzz-word!): be ready to change my programming, location, choice of materials, etc., based on the needs of the week, day or moment.
- Be prepared: have a variety of tools on hand (books, toys, data, plans) to support my goals.
- Speak Up and Foster Community: regularly connect with my community members (on- and off-campus) to be sure we are supporting one another and helping each other reach our goals daily, weekly, and forever.
When I began thinking about teaching the twos last fall, I was worried that working with pre-readers would be less stimulating. Instead, I have grown as a professional in ways that are going to serve me well through many volatile years to come.
(Plus I’d forgotten how much I LOVE Sandra Boynton!)
Stay Nimble, my friends!