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Wednesdays with 4-year-olds

“Hello Miss Maria! Where have you been all this time?” The 4-year-olds welcome me as I walk through the door of Zinnias, a pre-kindergarten classroom. To them, a week is a very long time. I barely have a chance to take off my coat, before one of the students is dragging me across the room to show me what he did the day before at the art center. Ms. L,  the main teacher in the classroom, greets me with a big smile on her face because she finds the sight of me surrounded by ten students all wanting my attention at the same time comical. It takes 15 minutes for the students to dial down their excitement and allow me to catch my breath, put my coat on a hook, and say a proper “hello” to Ms. L and the assistant teacher, Ms. P.

While most college students are still asleep on Wednesday mornings, I make my way to McNeil Early Childhood Center, one of the locations of my spring semester fieldwork. As an early elementary education major, I learn foundational theories that are hard to grasp in their entirety without putting them into practice. Luckily, some of our courses have a fieldwork aspect to them, much like a lab for biology. So, two days a week I spend time in schools to gain firsthand experience working with students under the guidance of seasoned teachers.

A quick glance at the clock tells me it’s 9:15 a.m. The tables are set for breakfast. Oh! The smell of french toast and sausage patties reach my nostrils. My stomach grumbles because I woke up a bit late and did not have enough time to finish breakfast. I sit down at one of the three tables to converse with the students and join them for breakfast.

Time passes by quickly after that. We sing the weather song, examine the calendar for the day’s date, and go over the academic agenda for the day. Students disperse to the centers of their choice. There are multiple options to pick from: dramatic play, science rocks, math counts, reading corner, the manipulative center, writing table, the art center or the computer station. I take a walk around the room to talk to the students about what they are doing. Everything is running smoothly.

And then, out of nowhere, one of them begins to cry. My first thought: What do I do? She comes to me while I am kneeling talking to another student. She tells me about not being able to play with these two girls because one of them does not like her. I am hearing her tell me about the drama found in high school hallways. I try hard to think of the best way to handle this. When she finishes, I explain that everyone is friends in this room. She should ask the two girls if she can join in. She replies she can’t because she knows they will say no. It comes to the point of last resort and I  say, “Maybe we should go talk with Ms. L and figure this out together.”

As we walk over to Ms. L, I peek at the clock and realize it’s close to the end of my time at fieldwork. Luckily, I am able to observe how best to handle this situation to resolve the issue with Ms. L’s guidance. Ms. L lets the student now that we are all friends, but sometimes we will not want to play with everyone. We find a center to play at with other classmates.

Stepping out the classroom door, I quickly reflect on the three hours that just passed and give myself a pat on the back. The students were all safe at all times, I did not do anything to worsen circumstances, and I walk out in one piece without a single stain on my outfit. It was indeed a good day at fieldwork.

Photo courtesy of the US Department of Education