I tell people that I'm a lazy preschool teacher - I never create more work for myself than necessary.
I think what I should really say is that I want to help children become more competent and self-sufficient. But, being a lazy teacher is certainly attention-getting.
Here are some ways that I've tried to help kids do things for themselves.
When I put out staplers or punches or other tools, we expect the children to do the things themselves. I will help them know what to do or how to use the item, but they do the work. (Okay, sometimes I press, too, to help the staple go through.)
If they want a picture of a horse or airplane or whatever, I do not draw it. They do. We place paper and other resources close at hand. If kids need something, they can get it for themselves. I do help move paintings from the easel (although they often want to do that for themselves, too). But the expectation is that the child will do the work. After all, how will they learn if they do not do it?
We expect kids to put away materials themselves. Now, maybe things stay out during the entire learning time. But when it's time to clean up and put things away, the kids are on the job. Since I've had my group of kindergartners in my church class for almost a whole year, I don't need to give them any guidance at this point. (Well, not much guidance.) They begin to pick up all materials. They carry the heavy block bin (two or three kids together) and put it in the cabinet. They pick up EVERYTHING and ask where it needs to go (if it's something we don't use every week).
We have labeled our drawers in the dramatic play center with pictures. Kids can see where things go, without being told or without having to try and figure it out.
During the session, we want children to be responsible. We provide our small trash cans whenever we have stickers or other activities that generate trash. Anything that needs to be discarded goes in the small bins and then is later dumped into our large trash can. I don't need to think about what is trash; they take care of it.
If paint is dripped on the floor, I give them a wet paper towel or sponge. They clean it up. If we have a messy table after our activities, someone will help me wash the table down. Really. All it takes is for me to ask and they do it.
We do lots of other things and have lots of other expectations for kids to do the work themselves. And they want to do it - more times than not.
I think of this quote from Maria Montessori: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” But often we help because we don't think a child can be successful. Or we don't help them be successful, to gain the competence they need. From the age of 2 (or earlier), kids are saying "Me do it!" They are ready to do it - or at least try. So let's be a little "lazy" and let kids do thing for themselves.
I was reminded the other day to let go. In my classroom I take a lot of pictures. On this particualr day, one of my friends was building and building. When he was done, he called me to see his structure. He wanted a picture of it. I gave him my phone (on the camera app) and said, "Here. Take a picture of your building. Press this button when you want to take the picture." He was a little reluctant. But he did it.
Of course, others wanted to take pictures, too. We passed the phone around and several kids took pictures.
One took this picture.
Me. Being a lazy teacher.
Or me. Helping them become more competent.
What do you do to help kids be self-sufficient?