Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.
— John F. Kennedy
In my heart, I work in a progressive play-based program that fully integrates indoor and outdoor play, and honors the natural rhythms not only of the day, but of each person. Most importantly, in my little dream world, every parent and educational professional is fully dedicated to maintaining the dignity of the learning process by empowering each child. In reality, I work in a school district that would never be mistaken as progressive. I could whine about the institutional mess I see, and at times conform to, but it wouldn’t be very productive in the end. Instead I’ve decided to make peace with it, because while this place certainly isn’t progressive, it is making progress.
My administrators give me a wide berth in our classroom projects, and gently reassure the parents that their children are learning when we paper mache, play with parachutes, and make all manners of gooey messes. I have a great relationship with several community leaders who regularly volunteer their time and donate all kinds of stuff for our budget-strapped room. By introducing even a smidgen of progressive early childhood practices, I’ve noticed a significant difference in the parents who have had multiple children come through the classroom. They support the process of learning because they’ve seen it work.
I may not have the classroom space, parental support, administrative guidelines, or material resources that I dream of, but I do get to see on a regular basis that what I do matters. One day I will work alongside like-minded people in a program that lines up more closely with my personal educational philosophy, but until that day comes, I am content to be here in this space. What I know for sure is that I am far more fortunate to have met and worked with each child in the class than they ever were to have had me for a teacher.
Now I am at least trying to slow down and simply enjoy the process of progress.