It turns out I'm an introvert in disguise. For my whole life I've thought I was an extrovert, but nope, wrong. I'm chatty and exciteable and socially adept but I default to quiet solo activities when given the choice. I don't actually prioritize spending time with friends; I practically have to be dragged to social events. HB has been pushing me to get out of the apartment a little bit for my own good. Last week one of my favorite classmates in my grad program, El, invited a few of us to her home, and so I sternly told myself I couldn't skip it.
And so, ensconced in wicker chairs on El's deep southern-style porch, we discussed teaching philosophies, our grad program, and personal growth. All three of them are full-time employed in preschools; I'm minimally employed, flitting between babysitting and tutoring shifts, and spending the rest of my ample free time preparing for the month-long bicycle tour HB and I are planning and working on a few art/zine projects. El just started a job at Escuela, a bilingual preschool in our neighborhood, which incidentally is the preschool that Ezra just started attending. Two of my other favorite classmates also work there, one as the assistant director. All of them have been encouraging me to apply for a substitute position at Escuela for months and months.
So this week, at El's invitation, I did a two hour visit to Escuela.
I loved it.
I don't have a whole lot to compare it to, since my preschool teaching experience is limited to the three summers I spent between college terms working as an assistant/sub/floater teacher at the large, primary-colored, corporate preschool in my parents' very affluent, suburban neighborhood. My impression of that school can be summed up with "loved the kids, hated the rest of it."
Escuela felt completely different. There were no arbitrary rules, and the kids were not only permitted to explore their ideas but given the space and time to really dig deep into their projects. Transitions were gradual and followed a fluid rhythm rather than a rigid schedule, so that part of El's class was outside while four of them remained inside with their other teacher for an extra 20 minutes working on their project (tearing up leaves and petals on a light table and making "ice cream and sandwiches" with them) until they were ready to head outside. Collaboration and conflict resolution arose organically and without teacher intervention. Most of the classrooms were open so that kids could float between them instead of being locked into their own room with their own age group. And, small but important, they have a garden that the kids accessed during their outdoor play, picking and eating the produce they had been growing.
After my visit, I stopped in at the office and chatted with the assistant director (also one of my favorite classmates) about applying for the sub position. She's setting me up with the paperwork, and if all goes well, I should be starting at the beginning of November, when HB and I get back from our big trip. The sub position is a good way for me to feel it out, decide if it seems like a great long-term fit or whether I should continue looking at the other preschools on my "preschool crushes" list.
Ezra's parents are very excited that I'm applying there -- Ezra's dad keeps saying he'll tell the director to hire me and give me a raise right away, which is very sweet but a little overbearing.
I'm really looking forward to it.