Playing School

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a picture of her four year old, a friend of Wren’s, playing school. She had all of her baby dolls lined up in front of the easel where she was giving a lesson on uppercase letters. I shared the picture with Wren and said, “You could play school too. That would be fun.” The idea was lost in the chaos of the day and we didn’t think about it again.

Then yesterday, Wren was busy playing in her kitchen, while I worked in the real kitchen. She came in and announced, “I’m going to play school. Not with you. With my animals.” We’ve played school before, mostly sitting at the kitchen table playing with letters or reading pattern books together. But Wren had made it clear, this playing school did not involve me.

A little while later, I was sitting on the couch, reading. I had noticed that Wren had set up a row of My Little Ponies and other small toys next to the easel. But what caught my attention was how she was speaking to them. She was clearly mimicking the language she had heard her own preschool teacher using. “Let’s check the list and see who the helper is going to be today,” she announced as she consulted a small dry erase board she was holding. “Twilight Sparkle, you’re the helper. Don’t be sad Princess Cadence. Remember everyone gets a turn.” Wren took the class through a lesson on spelling the word sun, calling on students to name each letter as she pronounced the sounds. Spelling was followed by snack and then the teacher produced paper and crayons for all of the students to color. She peppered in reminders and reinforcements such as, “I hope everyone remembered their listening ears,” and “You’re using lots of colors!” All of this before rest time.

Adi must have been listening in too. This morning, when Wren banned Adi from her school, I suggested she set up her own school. She took the bait and what ensued was magical…about 20 minutes of peaceful playing! Adi ran back and forth to the playroom, lining up her students, getting them paper and crayons, and snacks. Having never been to school before, she mimicked the language she had overheard Wren using. “It’s time for snack!”

My teaching career started off just the same way- with imaginary students and pretending to be my idols, my own teachers. Maybe the love for school is in the blood.

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