Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Observances on Early Juvenile Class Structures": or "Holly's First Day of Mini Preschool"

Today Holly started school. No, not kindergarten, nor pre-school or daycare, but "summer fun, two, three". It's basically mini-preschool for an hour and a half, one day a week at the local community centre. It's essentially training wheels for kids who'll be starting preschool, and a taste of what it's like being in a classroom with a STRANGER taking care of them. Holly's only ever been minded by family or friends, so this is a big step for her.

Getting ready this morning, I could see the emotional spectrum she was dealing with. She was very excited to be going to school, but pretty apprehensive about people and things she didn't know. On top of that, the program is held at the same centre where her greatest fear resides: the Noisy Castle. Luckily, the preschool room is at the other end of centre from the rec room with the jumping castle.

We arrived a little early, and went into the foyer of the centre, but as the door to the classroom was locked, we could only look through the window. Holly was jumping with excitement, looking in wonder at all the toys they were putting out; toy kitchens, speedy cars and a great big dollhouse. Finally, some other toddlers arrived, a group of three boys. They evidently knew each other from the spring toddlers' class, and came thundering in, in a way that only two and three year old boys could. Holly, bless her heart, walked up to them, smiled, and said "Hello, my name is Holly", but they just ignored her. At bit disheartening at first, but Holly bounced back when the teacher unlocked the door, and she was allowed into a magical realm of new toys.

I'm sure there are Jungian psychologists out there who can see a child's future career path by what order they are attracted to toys. I'm not sure what to make of her selections. First, the toy kitchen, particularly the plastic-food. Odd, for a girl who not at all interested in the real stuff. Secondly, all the toy cars. Then the wooden shapes with sand in them. Lastly, the dollhouse.

While Holly scoped out the toy landscape, two more little boys came in, and I thought to myself "this is turning into a cocktail sausage fest". Finally the last member of the class arrived, a little Asian girl. I was pretty happy to see her, but a bit disappointed when I heard her mum advise the teacher that "she doesn't speak any English". I couldn't tell if she was Japanese or Korean, but I'll find out next week, so Holly can greet her with either Konnichiwa, or Anyang (two words she's learnt from going to the library).

So they went through the routines of free play, story time, snack time, arts and crafts and finally sing-along. Quite a lot to cram into an hour and a half. As a test, I left the classroom twice. Once for a quick pee, and then another for a fifteen minute trip to the library. Holly seemed to handle it fine, though when I was in the room, I noticed the odd glance from her here and there, just checking that everything was still cool. She heartily joined in all the activities, though she was not all that keen on sing-along, as it came just after arts and crafts, where Holly had discovered this magical new substance called "glue". She handled it very well, artfully decorating her paper fish with lacy tendrils of glue, and carefully placing sequins and shiny pieces of paper so as to not ruin her glue pattern (I hadn't the heart to tell her it will be clear when it dries). During most of sing-along, she just stood, silent, her fingers twitching, while looking with longing at the white jars of glue on the crafts table. However, by the end of class, the Anthropologist in me could see the formation of cliques, even in this young age group. Around the teacher, were the four, white, tough, sporty boys (the Jocks). However, slightly further away, lying down peacefully on the butterfly carpet, were the little Asian girl, a latin-American boy (who had spent 75% of the class clinging to his mother and crying), and Holly.

Yes folks, our future Freaks and Geeks.

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