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Planning for Space

We are now finishing up our second week of preschool. There has been much enthusiasm, a lot of excitement, some happy reunions and some nervous tears. Some of our students are returning students and some are brand new. Our staff is always excited to see everyone again and to meet our new students and their families.

As a preschool teacher, I've come to realize the importance of space. There have been many times over the past two weeks where I internally recognize that I need to leave room for space. My planner needs space, our students need space, and sometimes our families need space.

When I plan what materials we will be offering in our play-based classroom and what stories and songs we will be engaging with at circle time, I know not to over-do it. The materials we set out on our shelves need to be thoughtfully chosen and placed in a way that allows for space between them. Leaving space adds a sense of calm to our environment. We do not want to overwhelm our students.

I need to leave space in our day (and in my planner) to allow for the flow of preschool life to unfold. This is a skill. So often us teachers love a good plan, and there is nothing wrong with planning a lot of things for our students to do... unless you tend to get fixated on it and worry that you did not get everything accomplished in your planner, which might throw off the rest of your fully planned week and cause you stress.

Give your planner some space. Let it breathe. Leave room for the unexpected. And if you are an over-planner and you get only a quarter of your daily plan checked off, that's o.k. There is nothing more important than tapping into the needs of our students. Follow their lead.

Students need space, too. When our students are nervous or upset at drop off, some students want our teachers to console them and support them. Others do not, so we give them space. I have watched so many students over the years work so hard to regulate their emotions. If they say no to a hug, we step back and let them do their emotional work. It's incredible to watch a young child find their calm. It's an important life skill they are developing. And often, once they regulate enough to the point where their calm is on the horizon, some might then reach out to us for that hug or high five.

Sometimes families need space. This one is tricky. The separation between parent and child can look so different from family to family. Some parents want to pass us their child who is struggling with separation because they know their child and they know it won't last. They want to keep the separation time short. Other parents want time with their child to talk with them and help them work on their regulation before sending them inside. I need to read each parent at drop off and determine what I should do. Should I approach and step in? Or should I step back and give them space. If I'm really not sure, I ask. Our relationships with our families are important. We must understand what our individual families need and how we can best support them.

So as you head into the next week, remember to allow for space. Space is necessary and it can be a beautiful offering to your program and families.

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