I wanted to call this blog post “chalk & cheese”…… because my visit to Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School today was kind of just that! My first impression was that the program that Lesley runs could not even be considered anything at all akin to what WE do. I did wonder for just a little bit, if I had wandered into an alternate universe….. because it was not at all what I expected. The Takoma Park I thought I knew from Facebook posts, and what I first hit, were so different. And I’ll say a little more about the place I “knew” later!
But as I reflect more and more – I think “wine & cheese” is a FAR better fit. Because wine and cheese compliment one another perfectly. Like a match made in heaven! I’ve never been to a co-op school before….. we don’t have them in Australia. All I really know about how they run, is from Teacher Tom and also from Lesley’s blog! It has shown me how little of a sense of place we can get from a blog or from posts. I think what I expected to see, was a version of how we operate within our service – only with children coming and going for short times.
Suffice to say – the time within the school is quite scheduled….. but upon reflection – is there really any other way to do blocks of time like that? And still benefit children in a profound way? Possibly not I’d say. Once I’d gotten over my initial shock factor – I settled in to just being there and allowing my little mind to open wide up. And it was then that I found that balance of how things need to be so different.
I also have to say, I was spellbound with Lesley’s communications with the children. Her command of space. Her eloquence….. the way she so gently nods her head with a sly smile to show her agreement. Her obvious passion and exuberance for working with children. I even saw her mannerisms reflected in children as they asked “whaaaaaat?!” Each time I heard that – it brought a smile to my face.
What I did connect most with in my time, was the outdoor play! Probably because it was my familiar space. Walking out into that playground, was like stepping into a surreal world. It portrayed itself just like the posts I am used to. And there, in the back, was the blue shed. The one that has really caught my attention of late with children climbing to the roof. Was I really standing in this same space? A BIG “pinch me” moment happened within. And just looking around at the incredible spaces that children have created over time – that so many of us have followed. It was like magically stepping into the pages of a favourite book. Now THIS was just exactly what I had expected. I also asked myself why this was so? Ah yes – it’s what I know.
But now I have a different knowing. Lesley Romanoff – she is DA BOMB! Her thinking challenged me immediately. And this, I know, is what it is all about. I watched her in the second session facilitate drama play with children…… and just WOW! This is special. Yes, it’s so much more scripted than what I am used to. But I also saw how she scaffolded the children – and how once her work was done, she just sat back and watched the play unfold. I definitely have more to learn from this marvellous teacher.
Tomorrow the children are having their forest day. I was a little sad that I won’t be seeing this – but at the end of the day after a long chat, I ventured down to the “forest space”. I saw and stood on the tree crossing the creek! I saw the site of the “blue house” (sans the blue tarp roof). More stepping into a book moments. I walked over the space with Lesley as she did her checks for tomorrow. And then I went back to the great lady’s house for a coffee. I’m still pinching myself right now. And I think I’ll continue to for quite some time when I look at those photos.
And again – finally – my thanks goes to the wonderful families and children, for sharing their lives and spaces with me. And my thanks to Lesley for welcoming me with such open arms, into her service and her home. A virtual stranger from a distant country – who now feels like a close friend.