day 6 at the wccc

Day 6 I had the pleasure of working with toddlers, and it is at this point that I realized that they were placing me in a younger and younger age group classroom instead of putting me all over the place, which is really helpful to know now. Except this was the last time that they did this. I declined working with infants, because even though they're adorable, I don't really feel that I could learn much from them, gender-wise.

Generally, this was a very new and awkward experience for me. I've never worked with a group so young, and the difference between these kids who were no more than 14-16 months old, and the 2-3 year olds. These toddlers could barely talk, they needed help with all of their daily activities, had special chairs with straps and even had a different playground from the rest of the kids. The teachers were also more relaxed concerning their nap time rules, allowing the children to sleep for an additional 30 minutes. The classroom looked similar to the other classroom except there was a mini playset comprised of a ramp, a tube, and a tic-tac-toe spinny block toy on the side, inside the classroom, none of the other classrooms had playsets indoors, only toys. The children were also noticeably different, they were much smaller, all wore diapers (very happy that I didn't have to change them) and some even had pacifiers. Although some children in the older groups still wore diapers, they were usually for safety measures, because by now the teachers knew when each child should go potty because by 2 years old, children should be able to relatively control their wastes or at least alert someone when they have to use the bathroom, which many of the older kids do. This age group however, had no control whatsoever, and went as they pleased. Another noticeable difference was their inability to use the English language. They could understand the instructions that were given to them, but had difficulty conveying their desires. Most of their "words" were incomprehensible and were accompanied by hand gestures, mediating what they wanted. The most advanced children babbled and sometimes used a word here and there, but the majority of the children just used advanced babble, typical of their age. In order to advance their acquisition of language, the teachers always asked the children to "use big boy words," as a way to reinforce their use of words, a sort of zone of proximal development. On the playground, I also noticed that the children didn't play with one another as much as the older kids did, but rather interacted with the toys/equipment on the playground more. There were also a handful of kids that were just playing with themselves, and apparently this behavior was common in some of the kids, but uncommon in others, but generally was a common sight to see kids playing by themselves. And to no surprise, given that they had so many toys to play with.

Cognitively, their ability to learn came slowly, as they repeated the same mistakes over and over again, although some of the older ones already knew what to do in certain events. For example, when a child wants more food/drink during snack time, he or she would have to ask using their words while their plate/cup was down on the table. Almost all of the children had difficulty understanding this, and had to be prompted by a teacher to use their words or put their dish on the table in order to be served. One child however, Abby, had to be told only once to put her dish down instead of being told multiple times or having the dish put down on the table for her. Although it wasn't a major feat, it set her apart from the other children. On this particular day, the WCCC had visitors on the toddler playground; giant bees. Although they were harmless carpenter bees, they were big, black, and made loud buzzing sounds, "scaring" all of the teachers to different extents. I wasn't explicitly afraid of the bees, but I wasn't going to play in the sandbox where they were flying around. The children however, took no notice and played in the playground as if the bees weren't even there. This was surprising to me for two reasons; one, 2-3 year olds would SCREAM and point whenever they saw a bug, not neccessarily meaning that they were afraid of it, just screaming because it was there and they felt that they had to tell everyone, and two, they weren't afraid of big, black, buzzing creatures that flew around in the air. I don't know if these kids had a schema for bees, or if they didn't notice them and hence didn't react to them, but I found their nonchalantness towards the bees quite humorous when the teachers didn't want to go near the bees. They also had an extremely short attention span, or the script of washing their hand was completely lost on them. After they got their diapers changed, it was my duty to help them wash their hands, and although they knew what the teacher meant by "wash your hand" (they went do the sink and stepped up on the stool) I had to basically wash their hands for them. The first few kids I just instructed, by pointing to the soap, and pointing to the paper towel. But sooner or later, they just started playing with the water instead of washing their hands, despite me instructing them what to do. It soon became much more effectively for me to grab their hands and wash it for them.

Gender-wise, I found that the toddlers were no exception when it came to gender segregation. Although there were only four boys on the playground (two were from the other class), boys and girls played together on the playground and in the classroom. The child that I connected with the most this time was a girl, named Delilah, and she didn't seem to be threatened by my presence at all, but instead seemed to be happy that I was here and even gave me a hug (yeah it was really cute) when she left, suggesting that she was securely attached. When her mom came to pick her up, she was very happy that she was there, but wasn't eager to leave like some of the other children, who saw their parents as an escape from the WCCC, instead of a individual who takes them home and signals the end of their day at the WCCC.

Heres something interesting. The playground is right next to the infant room, and one of the teachers of the infant room came out, throwing some of the attention of the toddler teacher toward the infant room. She then asked one of the children if they wanted to see babies, and most of them just came rushing down from the playground to see these infants, eyes wide with curiosity. I mean, they were babies several months ago, its so funny that they are so curious.

*all names are fictitious, although the characters are real