As much as I dreaded the onslaught of Monday, today was a very productive day. It's damp and chilly here, but my preschoolers were ready for learning and fun, and that's what we had. We spent the morning engaging in a million different activities and read a great book together. We sang songs and talked about how some of our teachers were moving on to new schools (we have student teachers who rotate through). We talked about the visit from a firefighter we'll be having on Wednesday. The children were excited to hear that one of our dads will be bringing his firefighter gear and telling us all about it.
A year ago, our school had new fire alarms installed. The regular, loud, high-pitched noise was replaced with an inhuman screeching frequency that I swear makes my ears bleed internally. I've never heard a noise as painful as that one. Of course, the reaction to a noise like that for most kids is to run the other way--and quite frequently, that doesn't mean OUT of the building.
We have specifics that we follow for fire safety. When you hear the bell, you get a teacher's hand, and you walk out a specific set of doors. We walk a safe distance, then the lead teacher calls the roll to ensure every child is present. Obviously, there are some things we have to watch out for--the kid covered in paint who wants to take of his smock, the little one on the toilet when the alarm goes off, the child who wants to grab a coat because it's cold/wet/whatever outside. Generally, though, we make it through unscathed.
Our first fire drill this year occurred a few weeks ago. Instead of ringing the inhuman, ear-bleeding bell, I decided I wanted the children to remain unscarred a little longer. We rang a small hand-sized bell and practiced going outside together and calling roll. We talked about why we practice going outside in case there is a fire, and that if there really was a fire a very loud bell would go off. But knowing I had some children in tears just from this minute practice session, I decided we needed some help.
Enter our prize firefighter. This dad is awesome and has volunteered to help every year. He brings his gear, goes over stop drop and roll, talks about fire safety, and then he suits up. One thing research has shown us is that for children who are in frightening situations such as fires, being familiar with what a firefighter in uniform looks like can be lifesaving. If you've never seen a firefighter fully geared up, with his or her oxygen tank on, it looks like a space alien and sounds like Darth Vadar. If I were a kid, I'd be hiding under my bed too. It's critical for kids to know that the nightmare they're facing isn't the guy in the scary suit making the weird sucking noise--it's what will happen if they hide from him.
Our firefighter dad will invite the children to touch his gear and listen to the sounds it makes. He'll help them understand that firefighters are just grown ups trying to help, and it's okay to go to them. If you happen to be reading this and your child hasn't had the experience of seeing a firefighter geared up, it's something I highly recommend doing for any child over two.
Work is a safe escape for me. Despite the pressure and sadness the weekend sometimes brings, I can honestly say I enjoy my work tremendously. I enjoy learning as much as I do teaching, and I learn something new every day. Sometimes I learn from my college students and sometimes I learn from my preschool children; sometimes I learn from my colleagues and sometimes I learn from the children's families. But I can't ever complain that my job is boring. And God willing, none of my students can complain that my classroom sucks, either.