I started my position with the Yellow Springs Community Children’s Center on April 4th of this year. I was nervous for my first day of my first co-op, and was a bit jittery as I prepared for new hire paperwork and training. My first impression of the YSCCC was of nostalgia, and a familiar sense of home. As a 22-year-old, it really was not that long ago when I attended preschool and children’s programs in my own hometown. The friendly and welcoming smiles, the crafting supplies, the sensory table, the play equipment- it all brought me right back to the same excitement and comfort I experienced when I was very young.
The Children’s Center has a long history in Yellow Springs. First opened in 1926, the Children’s Center celebrated its 70th birthday next week on Wednesday, May 12th. Their mission is to “to enhance the unique social, intellectual, emotional and physical growth of each child and to support their families.” Their philosophy is to provide the best environment for learning, care, and support for the children’s development and well being. While the teachers and staff of the Children’s Center use a number of methods and resources to achieve this, it is the level of compassion and dedication they each bring to their work that has the most incredible impact on the organization, and on the children.
I have not met a single person in the organization yet who does not bring 100% of their motivation and care to the children in their classrooms, day after day. I have never met a group of co-workers who behave more a family than those in the YSCCC. The uplifting atmosphere makes me feel like I shine brighter, and I know the children can feel it, too.
My position with the YSCCC is through the Antioch Miller Fellowship program. It is my job to work directly with the kids, assist the teachers, and contribute to program and curriculum planning and development. The Children’s Center has three programs to care for toddlers, preschoolers, and school-agers, covering ages 18-months through grade 6. Because I seem to work well with all three age groups, my work day is split between them.
I start my work day at 8am with the preschoolers for free-play. By 9am, we serve a healthy breakfast that caters to each of the children’s dietary needs, followed by planned activities and more free-play. By 10am, the preschoolers gather together for Circle Time. We do calendar activities such as singing the “Days of the Week” song, identifying which day it currently is, and where today falls in the week. We sing the “Weather Song,” and the children take turns identifying the day’s weather and dressing the velcro weatherman accordingly. The teachers read one or two stories that correspond to the day’s curriculum. By 11am, the children get outside-play. If the weather is not nice enough, we go to the Muscle Room to play instead. 11:30am is lunchtime, serving well-rounded meals that meet the needs of each child.
This is usually the time when I transition to the Toddler Room. I assist the toddler teacher with feeding the kids their lunch. When they finish, I help keep them entertained with playtime, stories, and songs. I use simple sign language as a communication aid with the children who are still learning to make themselves understood, and I comfort the toddlers who still have a hard time being away from their parents. By 12:30pm, I start helping the children get changed or pottied. By 1pm, we meet the preschoolers at the Nap Room and get everyone settled on their cots. By 1:30pm, most children should be settled or asleep. This is when I take my lunch break.
I arrive at the gym in Mills Lawn School by 2:30pm for the school-agers program. Once all the kids have arrived, they line up to use the bathroom and wash their hands, followed by a snack. The kids volunteer to take turns as food servers. After they finish eating, we have Quiet Time. Students do their homework if they have any, and read a book if they do not. Quiet Time ends at 4pm, and then we do an activity that relates to the week’s curriculum. Once the activity is over, we move outside to the playground until 5:30pm or so. By then most children have usually been picked up by their parents, and the rest move with us back to the gym for the remainder of our time.
Every work day, I see how the teachers and staff with the YSCCC build and cultivate relationships with each of their students individually. I listen as they share insights on what strategies work best for individual students. I see how the children grow and learn new things, and I listen to their thoughts about new discoveries.
Most of my previous work experience before now was as a Care Provider for individuals with developmental disabilities. I worked with people of all ages, but only with a couple children. Something that stuck with me the most from that job was the new understanding I gained about the human condition. Understanding the spectrum of human ability gave me a new perspective on the experience of being human, how and why human beings behave and feel the way that we do, and what we should value the most about our relationships with others.
From my time thus far on my first co-op, I am surprised and thrilled to discover yet more insights into the human condition. I am seeing things through a perspective that I have not experienced since I was in grade school myself, and it has reminded me of the wonder and hope of childhood. I am reminded of the inhibition for learning I used to have. I am reminded of my responsibility to treat others kindly. I am reminded of the excited optimism that used to drive me. My relationships and interaction with others has already improved in real time. I cannot wait to go back to work tomorrow.