The first time I visited Open Classroom I was overwhelmed. There were so many things happening I wasn’t sure what was what, but I loved how the teachers talked with the children and the other parents talked to us. When we left I said to my husband, “I don’t know what is going on there, but it’s a community I want our family to be part of.”

I was a committed co-oper. I loved getting to know the children and I loved getting to understand the language of the Open Classroom. It took a while for me to learn how to “guess my rule”, and the birthday song. I was happy to clean anything in any classroom, but was very insecure when my task was supervising “jobs”. What exactly was Sentence Board/Breakthrough teaching? I could never find the words I needed, so I felt like it was mostly teaching the children how to baffle me. What should I do to not let all my frustration bleed into my work with the kids? How should I work with a child that really doesn’t want to do the task at hand? Where exactly are the boundaries for the yard? I felt as though I was in kindergarten myself – with all the usual insecurities and fears of doing things “wrong”.

This was the beginning of my learning in the parent meeting at the end of the morning. Amy Valens was the moderator on my day. In the kindergarten years she helped demystify the Sentence Board. In Larry’s room she taught me how to use the Reading Tub to help kids who were having a more difficult time not give up on reading. That period was seminal for me. I loved working with the kids’ reading. It was a precious one-on-one time that helped me get to know the children and for them to hopefully get to know me. And sometimes when a child had had a really difficult beginning, the spark would take and that child would read and read and read. Those end of the morning parent times taught me how to help them learn to read – and so many other things. I learned that sometimes five minutes on a task was enough for some students. I learned that sometimes it was great if “that” group of boys spent the entire morning in the art room. I learned to trust myself to know when a child had had enough, or was having a hard day, and release them from a “job”.

I was not the best or most patient co-oper. But I was committed to being there, and I loved the kids. Open Classroom made my own children better people, and the children and teachers and parents there made me a better person. They made me be more “open”.