We all know the feeling of closing one chapter in life and opening a new one. Some people sail through this transition seamlessly and for others it is an unsettling period. I belong in the latter of the two. I seek a sense of closure, a moment of reflection and a chance to recap on monumental moments before they slot into a very dusty memory bank.
As my son finishes up his time at preschool I struggle with finding the right words to show my gratitude. So many empowering and generous women impacted on his little life at preschool. It is hugely important to us, as a family, that these women know the impact they have made in our son’s life. On the surface it is apparent that educators guide our children’s learning and nurture all their strengths. However, from a parent’s perspective, an educator’s impact ripples so far beyond the surface.
In the professional world we have what is known as an exit interview. But In a child’s world, how do we measure the preschool experience? This concept of exit interviews leads me to think about my son’s imminent departure this week. How, as his parents, do we capture his experience of preschool? If he had an exit interview, let’s call it for names sake, PREXIT (The Preschool Exit) would it go a little something like this:
What have been your highlights here at preschool?
One day I got married in preschool, the next day we made an apple tart to celebrate our anniversary.
What will you miss most?
Celebrating my birthday with my friends. My teachers hug and her funny hair. Muck balls in the garden.
What skills will you take away with you?
I’ve managed the opticians and administered eye tests to various friends in my class.
What will you miss the least?
The clean-up song.
Obviously, as true as the above answers appear, they can never fully capture the magnitude of his experience. So, as a parent I’m here to describe what this impact feels like to us. Let me start by saying, thank you for so many things that you are completely unaware of. Thank you for giving us the comfort of knowing that when we are not around our son is happy, safe and cared for. Working a full-time job as a parent you have no idea how this comfort makes our day so much easier. My son absolutely adores going to preschool. Knowing he is an environment where is respected and listened to means the world to us. Thank you for playing such a personal role in his first real journey in life. Your impact on his journey has been immense. Never doubt that. You have helped to nurture all his interests and strengths. He is so confident in who he is because of your time and your care.
Do you know that finding those small stories in his school bag made my day? I have kept every single one of them. Each a pebble in his journey. Each one a memory I was not there for; but it felt as if I was. They reaffirmed how strong the bond was that you had all made together. Learning how he managed his own opticians and played out his feelings through play filled my heart more than you could ever imagine. I never knew words on a page could make me beam so much with pride. Constantly reassuring us that our son is loved and growing in a professional environment.
When my son got new glasses last year this was a huge change for him, and for us. Wearing a patch to preschool initially felt challenging. I worried constantly about how this would affect his confidence, his sense of being and belonging, and how he would manage those feelings of looking different to other children. Surrounded by professional practitioners, he flourished in his uniqueness. Last week I watched him walk into his new school. Awe struck, I followed his lead as he walked straight up to his new teacher. He shook his hand, introduced himself and gushed about all the things he enjoys doing. Through his preschool practitioner’s time and expertise, I can positively say that he now moves forward as an extremely confident and capable young boy.
Thank you for giving him the space to explore who he is. We are forever grateful to you for the wonderful start in life he has been given.
As Maria Aarts so profoundly declares, ‘Thank you for sharing the joy’.
Aisling is a Media and Journalism graduate working in the Training & Practice team at Early Childhood Ireland. A lover of words, she is often found with a curious four-year-old, pocket journal and ink on her hands.