When my youngest daughter was preschool age a very good friend of mine asked me if I would like to be her assistant in her preschool class in a Waldorf school in NY State so that my daughter could attend. I was very excited because this would be a real learning experience for me. I had previously taught for 9 years in a public high school teaching academics in a special needs program. Many of my students were inner city students and it was a wonderful experience. I learned how to dance and “boogie” (as my students told me) and I also learned about their social and home life, which was nothing I had ever experienced. I then became a full time mom for my 3 children and had become very interested in learning about alternative private schools for children, so I eagerly agreed to become an assistant in the private school and learn new things.
I learned so much in those 2 years that I worked in the school my daughter attended, things I never learned in college! I learned that through art and music any lesson becomes more real and speaks to a student’s imagination.... and that it works with any age! I also learned that nature and real life experiences make the most interesting learning experience and that all children love food and the more they play with it, taste it, touch it and learn how to prepare it, the better it is! I watched my daughter learn how to wash and dry dishes; mop floors and hand wash cloth napkins in preschool! I saw her cut, stir and knead dough and help prepare snack every day! She was so comfortable doing these things in school that it carried over into home and she was eager to be involved in meal preparation and cleaning. She was never bored; she always was doing some sort of project at home and we had all kinds of art materials for her to experiment with. This is when I learned that young children don't need TV or electronics around them all the time. I learned that there was a totally different way of teaching and learning!
I decided then that it would be hard for me to teach in a public school again and even though my children did attend public school I always tried to keep things creative at home. I took a job in a health and wellness center (natural health is another passion of mine) for a few years until a young woman walked in to ask me about the services offered at the center. We started talking and she told me she was a music therapist and I told her my background and interest in alternative education. She told me about a school she knew of that was something I might want to look into... it was called Celebrate the Children and at the time it was in the next town over from me in Byram, NJ. I went on the website and it sounded like something I would be really interested in! I filled out an application and in August got a phone call to come in and do a lesson.
Okay, now I wanted to bring in some of the wonderful things I had learned! I didn't know about the DIR® levels but I was willing to give it a try. I prepared a lesson on adjectives using food. I brought in sliced apples to show the star. I told a short story about the star in the apple and then had the students prepare, following a recipe, a yogurt dip for apples. The students came up and measured and mixed and then tasted the dip. Some liked it, some didn't. I asked them to tell me how the apples felt, looked and tasted. I asked the students how the dip felt, looked and tasted. I listed all their answers on the whiteboard and said they all described the food and that was called an adjective. Following our discussion, we read a book called "How Are You Peeling?" which was a book of fruits and vegetables, all showing different emotions. We talked about feelings and emotions and how the pictures looked... happy, sad, scared, bored, etc. I left feeling unsure of the lesson because it really wasn't what many schools would like but within a week I got a call offering me the job! I took it and am still here today!
I found a place where I can incorporate art projects, music and food that can help me teach concepts and themes as well as motor planning, sensory skills and life skills. I have seen students learn what mud is in the spring by bringing in a bowl of mud and letting them finger-paint with it. I have had students try new foods by preparing quesadillas on Cinco de Mayo or cutting a fruit salad to make a rainbow parfait. I love hearing parents tell me their children wanted to keep eating it at home! I have used songs to help a student remember what comes next or what an object is or what a name of a baby animal is. I have found a school that lets me teach in a different way, incorporate all the different teaching experiences I had, and continue to learn through school wide trainings. Paula Paglione, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.