By Melia Dirk, Kindergarten teacher, and Alaina Smith, early childhood educator, Oliver
The responsibility of the storyteller is to the culture of the community. – Barry Lopez
Kindergarten classrooms are magical places with exceptional adventures in learning! Seamless Day Kindergarten (SDK) is a program within the school that incorporates before- and after-school care in a licensed Kindergarten classroom. Early childhood educators (ECEs) lead the before-school care, transition the children into their school day, work as additional educators in the Kindergarten classroom, and provide after-school care in a variety of environments, including the Kindergarten classroom, outdoors, the school gym, or library.
The benefits of this program are tremendous for children. We have seen amazing growth in their capacity to self-regulate and the pace of their social and emotional development. There are fewer peaks and valleys for these learners because there are more consistent eyes and hearts supporting them at this critical stage.
The team approach makes the work more thoughtful and less stressful. We can do it all as educators, but we can’t do it all alone.
A Kindergarten teacher’s experience: Melia’s reflections
In 2019, I was approached with the idea of having a seamless day program in my classroom. At that time, I had no idea how it would work: What was the day going to look like? What were the expectations of the morning ECE? What about the afternoon ECE? How would we share our space? Who had which responsibilities? How would we work and plan together?
I knew this program had the potential to be amazing for children and families, so with an open heart and open mind, I agreed to lead this program in my classroom. With three adults working in a collaborative learning environment, the children would thrive, having more personal connections to caring adults; and families’ worry and anxiety would ease, having secure before- or after-school care and transportation to childcare sites.
My experience as a teacher reminded me that collaboration would be the key to our success. I wanted to ensure children and families saw myself and the ECEs as equals in this education environment, not as teachers and helpers in a hierarchical sense. We are all educators and want the best for the children.
An early childhood educator’s experience: Alaina’s reflections
My role as the ECE in the classroom has changed and developed as I have grown in my position over the past three years. I have learned an extraordinary amount by observing, wondering, and talking about teaching strategies with our team of educators.
Over time, I assimilated into the philosophy and pedagogy of the classroom. Melia became comfortable with my strengths and provided me time and space in the classroom to develop and share my ideas and invited me to lead in areas where I felt confident. I began to feel like I also had ownership of the space. It is my happy space where I am making meaningful connections with the children and families.
My profession as an early childhood educator has been held up by those around me in the most outstanding ways as well. I feel appreciated for my expertise as an ECE. The professional development that I am part of, and the learning alongside and from these teachers, has made me a better educator and team member.
Misconceptions about Seamless Day Kindergarten
“Teachers have no choice in participating in SDK”
Teachers do have choice. The school district receives Ministry funding for the seamless day and there is a list of criteria for implementation, one of which is that Kindergarten teachers must have the choice to participate in the program. In our school district, all Kindergarten teachers were asked if they wanted to participate in SDK. Some chose to participate, some did not, and some were curious to watch and learn. Currently, we have three SDKs in our district. For this program to be successful, all educators involved must be willing to work in a positive, collaborative manner.
“Teachers have to share space, personal belongings, and resources in the classroom”
Our belief is that the classroom belongs to the children, not us. We all treat the materials and resources as if they are our own, so this is not an issue. The classroom is a shared space with shared resources. We all have the same invested interest in the children, the program, and each other.
“Teachers have no time alone in the classroom”
We have arranged the schedule so the teacher does have time alone in the classroom. Here is our schedule: the morning ECE starts the day at 7:15 a.m. in the classroom. As the children arrive, they eat breakfast and play co-operative games until 8:00 a.m. Next, the ECE takes them to the gym, outside, or to the computer lab so the teacher has 25 minutes to get set up for the day (if the ECE did not have time to get things set up already). After school the children have their snack inside the classroom with the afternoon ECE, then go to other areas of the school or outside for 45 minutes or more so the teacher has the classroom to themselves. Strategically placed transition times allow for personal space.
“Teachers’ prep time will be taken away”
From the beginning, I felt it was very important for the ECEs and Kindergarten teacher to meet as a team each week for 25–30 minutes to discuss and plan. I choose to use part of my prep time for this. Of course, we are always talking and planning, but for this program to run smoothly we need to meet intentionally each week. We discuss our observations, where we want to take our learning, and how we can support each other. Preparation time is not lost, but rather includes other voices that help make the program as successful as it is. It just looks different. Again, this is the teacher’s choice, and not an expectation from our leadership team.
Our Seamless Day Kindergarten is a magical space. There is a beautiful collaborative relationship between the adults in the room, which positively affects the children. They see their teachers truly care about them and each other. Is this program for everyone? Maybe not, but if you are willing to foster collaborative relationships with the adults who work in your room, the possibilities are endless!
You can get a glimpse into our classroom by following @seamless_day_kindy on Instagram.