As a preschool teacher, one of the “Rights of Passage” is being able to make play dough. This gooey mixture of flour, salt, oil, water, food coloring, and cream of tartar is an art form all its own. No matter how perfect my measurements, it never comes out the same every time.
This tool is used to create all sorts of imaginary friends, foods, and creatures.
As I begin the undertaking of making play dough, I find it best to be prepared for each step. Making a plan for myself, I thoughtfully lay out my ingredients, careful to measure according to the recipe, knowing my outcome will be different from the last time, no matter what. Instead of being frustrated by this, I embrace it, regardless.
The steps of this process are specific, and if one is missed, it can leave you totally exasperated with a big mess on your hands.
The same can be said of being a preschool teacher. Each child is a little different. They all have their basic needs which are the same: food, water, shelter, safety (thanks to Abraham Maslow). Each comes from a different home, and a different background. No two will turn out the same. We need to take the time to look, read the history that parents provide us, and truly listen to student and parent when they talk.
It is easy to look at the play dough recipe and rush through the process, skipping integral steps along the way. Sometimes, this can be done, and the turn out is good play dough. Other times, this is done, and leaves you with a liquid or crumbly mess. The same can be said of parents and teachers. Sometimes we want that next step to be here. We crave knowing when they will sleep through the night, roll over, walk, say mama, be potty trained, write their name, read a book, go to high school, go to college. It often feels like life is a series of next steps. When we look at the next step too much, we may be unable to see the simple steps being taken in the right now.
When play dough is made correctly it is soft but firm, is not sticky, has a smooth consistency, and can be used to teach little fingers how to pinch, roll, and make a mistake and then move on from it. It also can be used to create a masterpiece, left to dry and become concrete, and given as a present that will become a memory for a lifetime.
The same can be said about teaching. If it is done correctly, it is soft, but firm, not attached, but loving, and will teach little minds to think, be confident, Make connections, and move on from trials with grace. It also will create a pattern of memories that will become concrete in thinking, reading, and dealing with others that will last a lifetime.
Play dough and teaching go hand in hand.
When I work with a student, I am always looking for the right consistency to use with them. I have to stop, look at the recipe, and make sure I am not skipping any steps. This isn’t always easy. It requires planning, reflection, and implementation. Reflection as a teacher is key to helping my students succeed, and learning about their family, home, and past helps me realize which ingredients have already been added so I can mix appropriately, kneed the dough of their beautiful young minds, and help them create those memories which become learned to shape their future.
What life lesson could you learn from a simple recipe?
Play dough – cookies – brownies – stew – lasagna -fudge
Share with me, so we can all learn from each others life lessons!