Teachers come in all sizes.
No, this is not a blog about weight gain/loss; it is about the GoPlay! mentorship program that has proven to be this year’s secret to success.
In the early part of this school year, it became apparent to the ever-analyzing GoPlay! teachers that magical things were happening during our exclusive morning and afternoon cross–generational program. Our older students (“older” being identified as being fully able to operate a zipper) were taking on another persona when in the role of mentor. The younger children were looking up to the older children, mimicking the way they played. The older children were gaining self-esteem, taking on the role of teacher with great seriousness. We even noticed one extremely active, often disruptive, two-year-old took on the leadership role when partnered with an older new-to-GoPlay! four-year-old student. When the two-year-old was expected to show his partner the “way”, he was the model student.
Soon we expanded the mentorship program to include our morning play centers. Now our mini-teachers are assisting with imaginative play and gross motor play, and helping other students to discover joys they may have only figured out themselves weeks before. Watching from afar, I saw a three-year-old show a two-year-old how to roll the play-dough to make a long snake. “Ssssss goes the snake,” the older child said, “Can you say that?” Yes, the morning at GoPlay! feels like a great big family with older siblings looking out for younger ones, but it was while walking into lunch time that I became aware of just how much pride these children are getting from teaching at the young age of four. As I entered the GoPlay! café, I was greeted with these statements, “Miss Robyn, she’s a bean lover now!” and “Look, he’s using his fork now.” These were statements of true delight! These children were overflowing with self-esteem and were filled with prideful gratification.
Now, I am not trading in the GoPlay! teachers for four-year-old minions, because not every mixed age class is necessarily successful. Teaching three- and four-year-olds how to guide one- and two-year-olds takes much roll modeling and direction, also. I am certain a bit of hard work now, however, will benefit all in the future, and I look forward to a center full of students and teachers of all sizes.