The Children's Studio School was a daycare program for 3 to 5 year olds which used the arts as a basis for learning experiences. There were 50 students and, for at least 35 of them, English was a second language. Most were Hispanic but we had a few children from Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. My son Jeremy was the only Caucasian child. Coming from Maine, where everyone knew the only African American student in our high school, I was indeed entering a new world. (By the way, things have really changed around here since then. We now have children from all over the world in our schools. At our high schools there are more that 38 languages being used.)
The staff was composed of trained pre-school educators and artists, actors, dancers and musicians who were supplementing their incomes by participating in our school. Tom, one of our teachers, was a docent at the National Art Museum and a visual artist. Walter was a PHD candidate who also did appearances on a soap opera. Other people included a Brazilian dancer and an African dancer, a musician for a well-known singer, and several other struggling actors and artists. A very diverse group, to say the least.
The center itself was located on 15th Street, NW. The area had been devastated during the riots after Martin Luther King's assassination. The building, a church, was used by the community to help rebuild the area. There was a food program for the elderly in the basement, a health clinic on the second floor and our program on the first. We had a huge common room with a stage, three classrooms and a small office. The door to the office was always open so that I could watch what was going on (my choice). Children were always coming in to show me what they had made or to share a story. I liked this part best. There was a great deal of spontaneity!
The teachers took full advantage of the city, arranging field trips to Rock Creek Park for science lessons, the zoo, the many different playgrounds and museums and the workshops that were offered at the Kennedy Center (free to schools in the area). Transportation was the public bus which allowed 5 children to ride free for each adult or by foot. It's amazing how far a young child could walk if there is an adventure involved!
My job was to keep track of where every class was, to arrange for extra adults if they were needed for a field trip, to set up workshops for the teachers, to report all of this to the Department of Human Services as many of our children had the cost of their daycare supplemented by them, to write grants, pay bills, to cover classrooms as needed to arrange for lunch deliveries and purchasing of snack foods, and to keep parents informed and happy. Oh, yes, I also had to complete the application forms for DHS for the parents. Very often these interviews were in Spanish, hence the requirement that I be able to read and write Spanish. Occasionally, I would run into difficulty translating what the parent was saying due to dialect and idioms. Luckily, there was Mildred, 4 years old but fluent in two languages. She was a great help! More about her later.
I worked 10 hour days. I loved every minute of it!
To be continued......