Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Today at the Preschool

I think my day at the preschool was even better than my experiences last week. Some of the kids recognized me and were excited to see me, and I felt much more comfortable and felt that I could take more initiative. One thing that I noticed about this preschool is that they don't read books to the kids all together - they take them in separate groups, which I think has its benefits because the kids are closer to the book and can feel the pages, see the pictures, etc. The discipline is stricter here than I am used to, or at least the way of expressing it. It varies between teachers, but one teacher in particular is given to stern reprimands and harsh threats and declarations such as "If Yael doesn't tidy the room she won't be able to play with dolls for the rest of the week" - which, I'm guessing, is an empty threat. The teachers also seem a bit more distant from their students than I am used to - when the puppet lady comes in to tell a story, the teachers sit in chairs to the side and the kids sit on the floor. I sat on the floor with a kid in my lap, and no one seemed uncomfortable or upset, but my behavior did seem to be unusual. Also, when we were playing outside, the adults were all sitting together and watching the kids, rather than playing with them. This has its advantages, as I think it is important for the kids to learn to play together, but I think it is also important for them to learn that adults are excited about what they are doing and want to be part of it.
There are a lot of things that I really like about this preschool though - in some ways it is more informal than I am used to. They have a lot of space and kids can wander between rooms as they please, which means that the play is less structured. Rather than having several stations at which kids can play, they basicallyhave the run of the place and can do whatever they want, within certain guidelines. They take turns eating, there's always one craft going on that they can choose to take part in, and otherwise there are dolls, a kitchen area, a big room with foam toys and a climbing frame, and legos. The teachers encourage creative play, and the kids are learning to sing, to rhyme, and to imagine. One major difference is bathroom etiquette - which is very much related to space. Rather than the bathrooms being a separate place down the hall, the bathrooms are located right off of the playroom, and diaper changing happens in the playroom itself. The bathroom has two tiny toilets and no stalls - kids wander in and out and see their friends going to the bathroom, which encourages them to try it even if they aren't yet potty trained. There is no gender separation in the preschool bathrooms, and no self-consciousness about it at all. Teachers go to the bathroom in a no-kid area. One last interesting thing: all the teachers are women, and the two head teachers wear aprons, which seems somewhat old-fashioned. I don't know what the apron is for, but I can guess, as a boy wet his pants today and then promptly sat in my lap, so I can imagine why a preschool teacher would like to have a little protection.
Speaking of gender, it's worth noting that both Daniel and I have only male professors and only female Hebrew instructors. Is this a coincidence? We have no idea, but it seems worth noting.
Preschool was very fun today. I played with dolls with two girls while two boys chased me around the room and pretended to be lions. I baked cookies in the sandbox with the help of ten little sets of hands. One student in particular grew quite attached to me and held my hand for about an hour, following me wherever I went. I was sorry to see that he started to cry when I had to go home...
Today at the preschool the puppet lady told a long story about a girl making sufganiot, so when Daniel and I went to the shuk during his long Tuesday lunch break, we bought our first sufganiot (jelly donuts) of the season. I'm actually not big on donuts, but I was excited about the idea of them being all around in place of candy canes and Christmas lights...

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