Opportunities for teacher leadership have been minimal at Paddington over the last few decades---the School has had a Head of School and a Director. In meeting with teachers over the past few years, we heard that our talented groups of educators wanted more opportunities to grow, learn and share their knowledge, in others words, to Cultivate, Collaborate and Inspire on a larger scale. Our teachers want to be viewed as professionals and are true advocates in the field of early childhood education and are tirelessly working to nudge the field forward.
To that end, this year we added three new positions for our gifted teachers to apply their talents in new ways. With the support of our Trustees, we further developed the Playground Ambassador position with the intention of building a scope and sequence for outdoor learning activities and a curriculum writer position to focus on a scope and sequence for social-emotional learning at Paddington.
Last year, Sheila Olson and Anne Mairs piloted the position of Playground Ambassador, paving the way for us to evaluate this need and to more fully expand and articulate this role.
In the spring of 2019, teachers were encouraged to apply for the specific position that might interest them, answer a variety of questions and then go through an interview process. Numerous teachers applied and the decision-making process was challenging as each applicant was passionate about the new opportunity.
Ashley G. and Megan Simmons collaborated and submitted a joint application for the Playground Ambassador position. Their proposal was so compelling that we decided to offer two positions for this important job. Both Ashley and Megan are passionate about outdoor education and play-based learning. They bring the theory of constructivism to their thinking, planning and implementation as they know first-hand that students are active participants in constructing their own learning by exploring the outdoor spaces. Ashley and Megan, along with Nea, attended a four-day workshop in Nebraska City, NE in July to learn more about outdoor education. Couple this training with a day-long workshop in October sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation and these two have hit the ground running. Shortly after the October workshop, Ashley and Megan completed the paperwork to certify our outdoor spaces as wildlife habitats through the National Wildlife Federation.
They have met with age-level faculty (teachers of 2s, 3s, and 4s and 5s) and listened to their ideas, questions, and dreams. Together they have designed a format for an Outdoor Learning Opportunity, a template with key learning skills and objectives along with directions, helpful hints and extensions. Each Outdoor Learning Opportunity comes in a box with a book to extend vocabulary and provide a good story. In addition, the box holds all the materials needed for the learning opportunity. Megan and Ashley share the goal of creating 20 such boxes by June 1, 2020.
Here is an example of a box and a class using this specific box, “Scribble Stones:”
Spend a day at Paddington Station Preschool and you’ll see it is 95% in the realm of social-emotional development. What an opportunity for us to teach life-long skills and habits in promoting healthy relationships, encouraging children to express feelings and solve social problems. It’s imperative that we work on this to give children the skills to thrive in a constantly changing and unpredictable world.
To build our social-emotional curriculum we invited teachers to apply for the role of curriculum writer. We had many applicants for this position, and, again, the decision-making process was challenging as each applicant was passionate about the new opportunity.
Anne Mairs was chosen for this position and has spent countless hours in professional development opportunities and reading various books on the topic. She has also met with age-level groups to gather to gather their ideas, comments, questions and a list of developmental skills they see as important within their own age-level. Anne has the task of blending this work with evidence-based research on social-emotional growth into a Paddington scope-and-sequence.
Anne recently attended a summit on Social-Emotional Learning at the University of Denver on December 2. Teacher Leadership at Paddington is thriving!