When Sue asked me to share my Step One experience with you – as a teacher and an alum – I felt honored. I decided to begin at the beginning – my own memories of Step One, starting in the two-year old program in 1983.
My Step One Memories
I remember the hillside, navigating through the bushes and trees without adults, feeling free and safe at the same time. I don’t remember any teachers on the hillside. I know they were looking out for us, but the feeling was that you were in a whole other world for children only.
I also have great memories of my teacher Gege. I wanted to be her: she had a whistle in the way she pronounced the letter “S,” and I wanted to say my “S”s like her. She had gorgeous curly hair, and as a child with curly hair, that was great for me to see. Without demanding attention, she inspired it. She knew how to have a special moment with each child, and was a great mix of firm but soft and tender. I’m always thinking of her in the classroom.
As soon as Step One called me to work in the twos program, I was hooked. I didn’t realize how interdisciplinary and cerebral teaching would be. It exhausts my brain in a good way. Plus, I was raised in a family where service was important, and this work is meaningful for me.
I like to say that I am fluent in two. It’s one of the most dynamic years of human growth. The kids are straightforward, and they aren’t jaded. I’m kind of a complicated person, and in each of my little guys I see part of myself with the volume cranked up all the way. They need so much – stimulation, new experiences – and that challenges me.
I want to be clear, though, that I wasn’t always fluent in two. The beginning of teaching can feel like when you go to college and think you know everything already. Early on, I thought I had it all down, but working with five hundred 2-year olds and their families has been so humbling. Now, I know what I don’t know. I’ve grown up a lot. I’m more honest with myself about my limitations.
I’m so blessed to have an amazing team in Room Three. Eric and I are good at offering a combination of limits and affection. Raquel brings in real-life experience as a parent. We are also racially diverse; I am black and white, Eric’s white, and Raquel is Latina. We respect each other’s different perspectives. I super trust them, and we basically raise a family together every year, which is a very bonding experience.
My Teaching Philosophy
We are very nurturing with our little ones, and that’s crucial. But I believe in their capacity to grow, and I want to show them that too. I challenge my kids a lot, especially when I see them do a move I like to call ‘the two-year old backpedal’. If they backpedal and we go with them, we’re showing them that they were right, that what they were trying was too much for them. We want to show them the opposite: confidence and security. It’s OK to try and fail, and it’s important for them to see that.
I actually learned how to read in the kindergarten room here at Step One, with my teacher Gege. When I walk there with the two-year-olds I always stop for a moment and say “This room is really special to me; it’s the room where I learned to read. I had to try and try, but I kept working at it and I got there!”
In a very literal sense, Step One feels like home to me. My mom worked here, so Step One has always been part of my life. Now that I’m a teacher, I feel genuinely supported here. I can be a handful: I have a lot of opinions and I’m not shy about sharing them. But everyone here understands me, my intentions and the passion behind what I do. Step One doesn’t require uniformity from children or teachers, and I’m respected for being the person I am, not just doing the job that’s expected of me.
When I tell people what it’s like teaching here, I like to mention the kid who insisted on naming their family dog “Captain Alexis” after me. Not necessarily the reward I expected when I went into teaching, but I have literally been welcomed into so many families. Thank you for sharing yours with me over the last 13 years.
Head Teacher, Room 3