Last Thursday was my daughter’s last day at Cameron House Nursery School. It seems like only last week that I took her for her first day there.
So much has changed since that day. She is taller, more articulate, 100% toilet trained, able to count to 100, add, subtract, read several words and write lots of them too. She can now draw people who have eyes, lips, bows in their hair, puffed sleeves and high heels. She can talk about words and the atmosphere around them, describing my ‘tone’ when I speak to her.
Ok, massive mama boast session aside, she has achieved so much during her time at nursery. And I have been so impressed with the staff there. I was never expecting such passion, hard work, understanding, genuine care, and respect for the pupils. The head teacher, Chris, has now become one of my heroes. And every single one of the people on her team are simply wonderful.
During one of my sessions volunteering at the nursery’s forest school program, I witnessed the legendary Arlene (nursery teacher) at work.
Imagine the scene, if you will: A group of about 20 four year olds with some teachers and parents, in the forest, having a nursery session; complete with make-shift toilet, fire, safety boundary ribbons, crockery and water to play with, clay to create with, snack. All in the forest! (You should be impressed already: this is awesome). I am one of the parents. While I’m loving the experience, it’s an hour and a half in, and I’ve had several four year olds talking at me all at once for most of the morning. My head is a bit cloudy, to say the least, it’s cold, and I’m starting to get tired.
At this point, a little lady walks up to me demanding that I lift her up on a tree. My instructions are that I am not to lift the kids up trees, rather help them use the rope to climb up themselves. I explain this. My explanation is not met with understanding. The little lady proceeds to whine and shout at me. I try, unsuccessfully, to communicate with her. This is getting increasingly annoying and fruitless. At this point Arlene comes over, and steps in.
I remember it clearly.
She asked simple questions, like: “Do you want us to get the rope to help you climb?” She gave short and sharp instructions, like: “Stop shouting at us”. She was not rude, or abrupt. She was firm and specific. The girl was not responding. She was sticking to whining, complaining and demanding. After a minute of clear communication Arlene called it. “We cannot help you if you are shouting at us. Come on Katerina, let’s go.” I felt positively rescued. I walked off with relief, and started helping someone with a hammock. (Yes they have a hammock too!) Four minutes later, I hear my name in amongst cries of victory and joy. I turn around. And there I see it. The transformation!
That same little lady was up on the tree! She had used the rope and climbed up herself, with Arlene’s help. She was a different kid! There was no whining or shouting. No demanding. She was happy, smiling, waving to me, and extremely proud! She was beaming with the satisfaction that comes from hard work and achievement! Arlene was standing next to her with a huge smile on her face.
I will never forget that moment! It was so so special. The little girl had got what she really needed. Not what she was whining for. She had not got carried up. She had been empowered to get up herself. She had achieved! Her teacher had encouraged and facilitated the achievement.
Something about the transformation I saw in that little girl’s face, and the help she got from Arlene to get there, really touched my heart. It brought tears to my eyes. To me, it was a picture of what teaching really should be about: Empowering kids to achieve!
I do believe that the teachers at Cameron House enjoy these transformation moments several times a day. I imagine it’s part what keeps them so passionate and dedicated.
It’s meant the world to me that my own little girl has been taught by such great people. And at the end of a year and a half there, they feel like an extension to my family.