Friday, August 15, 2014

The Backyard School: More Than School

Margaret, one of our wonderful Summer Staff volunteers, has written a guest post about her experience teaching the girls in our Backyard School.

Walking into the Backyard School, you’ll find a classroom, a small table, three small chairs on each side, and a teacher chair in the front.  There’s also a big bookshelf and cabinets filled with resources, as well as an in-tune piano!  The Backyard School is like a kindergarten – for the preschool graduates, but with a current class size of three students: Zoe, Cora Jo, and Lucy. They are all at their own different developmental level, and all come in with their own unique smile every day.

One of the things I loved about being at New Day was teaching in the Backyard School. It has truly been a pleasure, discovering these kids who are ready and willing to learn.  I am a college student still learning about early childhood education, and through teaching the Backyard School, I’ve decided that teaching is definitely what I want to pursue.  Sure, there are hard times, but hardships exist in every profession.  Sometimes when the kids act up, you have to laugh.  One example is that Cora Jo has this way of shaking her head and saying “bu yao” (don’t want) to just about everything when she throws a fit.  “One minute till clean-up, then we go to the bathroom and then eat snack, okay?”.  “Bu yao!”

What’s a typical day in the Backyard School?  I walk in, and Lucy welcomes me in with a smile.  At around 9:00, Cora Jo and Zoe run in with hugs and laughs.  After a bit of playing and settling in, we have an introduction time, introducing ourselves, counting the class, deciding what day of the week it is, what the weather is like today, etc.  Then, we’ll have a worksheet, followed by a group activity, usually some kind of craft.  At 9:50, we take a bathroom break, followed by a snack time.  After snack, we have another group activity, usually music or story time.  We also do some kind of activity that follows up on what we learned before snack.  At 10:45, we go outside for recess.  Once Zoe’s foster mom comes to pick her up at around 11:15, class is dismissed.

The routine is generally the same every day,  and these kids never fail to put a smile on my face, every day.  Sometimes I’ll come in, tired and worn out from life in general.  I find, every time, the best remedy for whatever is going on is the joy these girls give me.   I find energy and happiness through Lucy’s smile, Cora Jo’s hand in mine, and Zoe’s excitement for life.  Cora Jo has this laugh that discovers joy for you.  Zoe has this tenderness and compassion that cares for others, insisting, the Chinese way, to do things for others.  When Lucy gets praise for doing well, her entire face lights up in the most wonderful way.

In any school, students learn much more than just academic subjects.  Often, it is the same every day, a routine that is sometimes mundane.  Through teaching the Backyard School, I have found that teaching is much more than just a routine; it is joy.

Thank you, Margaret, for your hard work and enthusiasm.  Do come back next summer...

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