The Possum Chronicles: Oh Oh Baby!

26Jan10

Possum had just come home from preschool — although I’m not sure you could call it that unless children start preparing for school when they are 18 months old. She’s been in the same place since that time, sometimes full-time (when Mommy has a job) sometimes just one or two days a week (when Mommy does not. Anyone need a writer?)

But lest you think I am a horrible mother (too late!) we first brought her to school because she was very clearly bored out of her mind. I stayed home with Possum for most of her first three years because that’s about when this whole recession started, at least up here and in my area of work. (Anyone need a technical writer?) We were dirt poor, and had to rely on some above-and-beyond help from family, but my husband stayed home with Willow for her first three years, so all in all we were pretty lucky.

But there came a time when it was really clear that Mommy’s company was just not cutting it.  “Please, Mommy,” little Possum seemed to say, “I need to drool on other toddlers!”

We looked around a bit and found a home at a Reggio Emilia school nearby — I would tell you the name of it but then you would know that I live in a little town due west of Boston… I mean, in Outer Mongolia. Yeah, that’s the ticket. But if anyone is actually interested in where to find such a school, you can send a note via the “Contact” tab above. If you can prove that you are not a crazy person, I will happily gush.

Reggio Emilia is sort of like Montessori, but messier. One of my favorite quotes from the link above says that RE teachers “trust children to be interested in things worth knowing about.” Quick example from real life: Possum’s class was spending a few weeks talking about the ocean. In general — nothing more specific than that because the approach would be to provide a bunch of oceanic objects and environments, then watch to see what the kids wanted to do with them. They read books about the ocean, they talked a lot about the fish in the fish tank, they painted with water on different kinds of paper, they did a lot of playing with water outside, etc.

The outdoor water table was a big hit, and the kids did different things with it on different days. One day, a little boy brought over one of the BIG trucks from the sandbox and started whooshing it through the water, getting sand all over and splashing most of the water out on the ground. A typical reaction in most schools would be something like: “HEY! knock that off, the other kids are trying to play with the water!” Three things wrong there: one, it assumes that there’s only one way to play with the water and that way does not include trucks. Two, if the other kids don’t like the truck concept, they should say so, not the teacher. The teacher is there just to help the kids articulate that. Three, let’s assume for the moment that Truck Boy’s intent was NOT simply to ruin everybody’s good time…

“Hi Truck Boy — what are you doing?”

“Making a car wash!”

As it turned out, the other kids thought this was a fantastic idea and ran for the rest of the trucks. And what does the teacher say? Does she say “hold on, now, we’re talking about the ocean, why don’t we play with some fish in here?” Of course not, you silly person! The teacher brings out the liquid soap! The kids go crazy washing trucks and throwing bubbles at each other and getting completely soaked. Two of the kids decide to wash some baby dolls, and they allow as how they’d rather not have their babies crushed by a semi. The teacher sets up some buckets away from the fray and the kids cheerfully dunk the babies headfirst.

And what is the teacher doing all this time? Well, as long as the kids are enjoying the water and each other, the teacher just refills the water occasionally. She’s not just staring into space, either, because part of her job is to continue learning what the heck makes children tick. She’s listening to them, helping them express themselves to each other, seeing where the play goes, maybe catching some ideas for other activities.

Possum has absolutely thrived in this environment, and I am positive that it has contributed greatly to her crazy creativity. It was, in fact, the environment in which she wrote one of my favorite PossumSongs, “Oh Oh Baby (The Day Jake F. Brought Popsicles To School)”

But before I tell you about that, I would like to tell you about something else. When Possum first came to the school, she was in the Young Toddlers room, but when she moved up to the Older Toddlers room she had one of her favorite teachers ever. Ours, too. This teacher — we’ll call her Angel because she is one — then moved up into the Young Preschoolers room with Possum’s group, so Possum was with her for about two years altogether. All of the teachers in the school are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but Angel is something special.

First of all, and really beside the point, she’s utterly gorgeous — not in a scary runway-model way, more in a lovely dimply real-person way. Second, she’s whip-smart, very creative, and really knows what she is doing. Third, she has a great sense of humor about the things that happen in the daily life of a child. And fourth, all the time she’s doing this job that she does so well, she clearly loves these kids with every fiber of her being. Even the, uh… challenging ones, as Possum certainly can be from time to time! And they love her right back. When Angel sits down to read a story, the kids do not sit in a circle and give her their polite attention. Oh, no. When Angel sits down to read a story, she is immediately coated with children nudging each other for the best cuddling spots. You know how dogs and children just instinctively trust some people? And they’re always right? It’s like that with Angel.

I tell you this because Angel is leaving the school for another position. Possum will be ok, of course — as I said, all the teachers in this school are fantastic. But Angel will be sorely missed, and as much as we are happy for her new opportunities, we are very very sad in a perfectly selfish way.

Ok! Enough mush! We want the Possum Song!

And here it is:

Oh, Oh Baby
or
The Day Jake F. Brought Popsicles to School

Oh, oh baby,
I ate all of —
Oh, oh baby,
I ate all of —
Oh, oh baby,
I ate all of my popsicuuuuuuuuhl…
From Jake F. — WOO!

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