Painting on the first day of school with 4-6 year olds. Been there. Given each student an entire can of shaving cream to play with? Done that. A sandbox inside the classroom? We’ll do it again!
With my first year as a PreK/K teacher at The Innovation School behind me, I can comfortably share my biggest hurdle in the beginning: messes are okay. I ran myself ragged at the start of the year picking up abandoned toys, sorting all the crayons by color, scrubbing every last paint splatter and peeling oranges for kids so nothing ended up on the floor. I was constantly worried about what someone would think if they walked into our space and it wasn’t tidy.
As time went on, I started to see the importance of kids being able to leave something and come back to it. Why spend valuable play time cleaning up before snack if we’re still playing after? And if toys keep magically putting themselves away, how will a child ever experience the monotony of picking up a tub of spilled Legos?
Our school places value on letting our students (even the youngest) explore their surroundings, experiment with materials, make art whenever they want and learning to do things independently. I now see all those little messes as concrete evidence of learning!