My boyfriend's mum owns a nursery. It is a cute little place near Newport, which achieved outstanding in their latest Ofsted inspection, and over the last few years I have helped out at various summer fayres and things outside of school time. Now you know that I have been looking for things to push me outside my comfort zone and to gain a little work experience, so when she asked if anyone was available to help out for a couple of days, I volunteered.
I may not know what I want to do with my future career, but I am pretty sure that I don't want to be a teacher. I don't think I'd be very good at it, and to be honest, Liberty has kind of put me off! So I didn't volunteer with the thought of "I'll get some experience working in a school to help me be a teacher". I just thought that experience is experience, even if it is not what I want to do in the future.
The first day I was there, I helped to set up the tables with different activities for the day. I spent most of the time trying to build a zoo out of duplo, which was harder than it sounds as there were more blocks and animals than table surface! As the kids arrived a few helped me out a bit, although most just looked at me rather warily. I think they know the boyfriend's sisters quite well as they are around more, but they had never met me.
Throughout the day I mostly just picked up toys from the floor to keep it from getting too messy (and to stop the ukulele from being trashed!) At one point I was helping one boy to cut out pictures to stick into his story book about moving to primary school. He spent most of the time nearly cutting off my fingers and gluing my hand to the paper. He kept getting distracted too, but I managed to keep his attention on his book until he finished it.
I was shown where the outdoor toys were kept and how to choose what should be brought out so that when I came later on in the week, if I needed to I could get the toys out by myself while the teachers were busy with the kids indoors. When we did go outside, I pushed the swings and chatted with some of the kids about random things like trying to guess my age and how many sisters I have.
On the first day, I mostly felt like I was just playing, but the boyfriend's mum said I was big help. I think it was because while I was keeping an eye on things, she could get on with some important things in preparation for a trip later on in the week without distraction.
When I came back later in the week, I was in charge of making popcorn for the "cinema room" where the kids were watching Frozen as an end of year treat. Of course, you give a child a cup of popcorn, they eat it too quickly and immediately start hassling you for more. Multiple that by 15 and that's what I had! I had to make them a fruit pot, then make sure they ate that before they could have more popcorn. When they know there is popcorn, fruit doesn't seem like a good option, so that was interesting! I managed to convince most of them to at least try the fruit.
While they all went outside to play, I washed up the dishes from snack time. As it was a hot day, they kept coming back in, asking me to fill a watering can so they could cool off.
I had brought my guitar in that day so that we could do a little music session. I was expecting some of the teachers to lead and me to just play guitar like I had done one other time when I came in just to play guitar, but the boyfriend's mum told me to take the chair and to lead the group while they did other stuff. I had never done something like that before, so I didn't really know what to do. I found a few songs that I knew in the songbook, and got the kids to sing along with me (the teachers sang along to get them started thankfully!) and then I tried turning it into more of a game. I got them to do the actions, and to sing as fast as they could to race me, and things like that. I think they enjoyed it. Most of them joined in, a few were even quite enthusiastic, especially when we were singing really fast.
When we ran out of songs to sing, we still had a few minutes before lunch, so the teachers said to just play anything. I don't normally remember chords for songs, but I do know Stand By Me (it has 4 chords in the same progression all the way through!) so I sang that. I have never had a group of people listen to me singing so intently before. They liked it so much that when I finished, they asked me to do it again!
I really enjoyed helping out at the nursery. A couple of the girls became rather attached to me, one of them said "I'll miss you!" as I left on what was supposed to be my last day. The next day was the last day of term and I asked the boyfriend's mum if she wanted me and Ivy to come in a play guitar at the picnic they were having. My idea was to get the kids to sing Let It Go from Frozen with me as a surprise for her (they made her cry when they sang along with the film) but she kind of ruined it by asking if we could practise it with them to sing for the parents. Never mind!
We went in the next day and basically did the same as I had the day before and distracted the kids with singing and singing races while the teachers set up for the picnic. We sang through Let It Go so many times that my already sore throat was barely working, but it was a lot of fun. When it came to the actual performance the kids were great. It was very funny because it was obvious where they didn't know the words. "LET IT GOOO, LET IT GOOOO, ..... LET IT GOOOOO" One of the parents came and told us that having the guitar and the song made the day a little bit more special, which felt really good. That day was also good because one of the girls came up to me specifically to say goodbye (and give me a hug :)) and another (the one who said she would miss me) told me I was the best teacher.
Although I had a lot of fun, I don't think working in a nursery is something I could do all the time. Handling kids is much easier if you are only doing it in short bursts. I would be more than happy to go back and help out at Forton Nursery again though!