This one is for all of the toddler teachers out there. When I was in college and considering different career paths, teaching was never really on my radar. I loved children, but aspired to be a chef. It turns out that just wasn’t for me. So I have been in the classroom ever since. Walking through Target one day I was having a very (normal for our line of work) conversation. It was maybe about a child biting or maybe about an epic poo-splosion that I changed that morning. When I happened to notice that people with in ear shot were giving us the side-eye. The normalities of my day to day interacting mostly with people under the age of three, can be quite colorful to those not in the trade. A great example is the amount of descriptive words I have to tell a parent about their child’s abnormal bowel movement, or the amount of times I use the words “penis” or “vagina” in formal meetings with other adults. Toddlerhood is the time of toilet learning so all of these things are relevant, and in fact normal. I am now finishing up my second, two year cycle in a toddler classroom. This is the time when I begin to prepare the children for Primary, and also begin to think about the new children I will be welcoming in August. Now if you have ever greeted a brand new class of 12 adorably screaming 15-24 month olds you will understand me when I say “the first few weeks are blocked from my memory.” So I thought it would give us a much needed laugh to discuss the differences in teaching a first year group of toddlers versus the second year.
1. I set aside a specific wardrobe for my first year toddler class. I will not wear new clothes, white clothes, slip on shoes, anything without leggings, anything I do not want bodily fluid on, anything I cannot run fast, roll on the ground, crawl across the floor, or wipe food off of. In fact in the first year toddler class I barely even bring a jacket because I am usually sweating from comforting crying children, shadowing biters, running, playing, and singing. When the children start their second year in toddler your nicer clothes can begin to make a reappearance. Some children are fully toileted, others have the bladder control to not pee during a diaper change, and most children can efficiently use a tissue (rather than my knee). Second year is also when you see my cute shoes and scarves make a reappearance. I can walk to intervene in conflicts because we are all passed our biting phase, and they even have enough words to explain to me what happened.
2. I do not pack a lunch to eat with first year toddlers. There is no point, there is no sitting you are either helping children to sit, opening food, preventing the theft of goldfish, consoling children who are used to napping before our lunch time even begins. Mid-year when I am finally brave enough to bring some food it will always be a sandwich or some other portable, one handed type of meal. When the second year begins we all have the patience to wait until everyone is seated, and we all sit together for a family style meal. The children and I talk about our food and how it’s made, and where it comes from. They are older and aren’t so hangry that they can enjoy their lunch.
3. Observation notes, first year notes are basically non-existent. The only seconds I have available during the morning are to quickly rehydrate myself before going back in. Lessons are beautiful things when they happen and are typically recorded via photograph. Second year observation notes are beautifully written with the date, and even list who is absent during the day. You can usually find a child in a chair with a clip board sitting next to me while I write my own notes.
4. The STEP Count!!! Holy cow the step count. In a first year class I could get 10k steps by 3pm, if my assistant was out I would hit 10k steps around noon. Second year I have to chase my children around the playground to hit 10k steps because we are sitting all morning working on letter sounds, numbers, fine motor control, and other really cool things.
5. The bed time… when working with a first year class I can be in bed by 7:30 or 8pm the exhaustion is real! As the children grow in their independence and their language we start to function more normally, and its possible to stay up until nine, maybe even 10pm.
What difference do note with your first year toddlers versus the second year? Please take this all in good fun and laugh along with me about those special and trying moments welcoming a brand new class. ~Meghan