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Faculty Spotlight: Raina Curtin, Kindergarten

Get to know Ms. Raina as she tells her Minnesota Waldorf story and shares what a typical day in our Early Childhood Cottage looks like. Returning next fall as a MWS Kindergarten teacher Raina Curtin has spent the last year leading our Growing Together program along with teaching her preschool class.

What do you teach at MWS?
This year, I’m teaching preschool. Next year, I’ll be stepping into Miss Mary Lou’s shoes to teach kindergarten.

How did you come to be a teacher at MWS?

I taught at Peninsula Waldorf School in California, City of Lakes Waldorf and Spring Hill Waldorf. When Spring Hill Waldorf closed, I started my own in-home care for little ones, following Waldorf principles. My older children attended MWS over the years and I was an EC assistant for two years. In all, I’ve been at MWS in some capacity for 14 years. My family has roots here and I have felt called to the school, the beautiful campus, the land and the people here at MWS. The school is in sync with the way I feel I can contribute and continue to develop as a teacher and person. It’s a welcoming environment that I feel lucky to be a part of!

What is a typical day like in your class?
It’s dreamy! We start every morning outside, warmly greeting each child as they arrive. We take our slow morning walk up the driveway, stopping to look at the very same tree every morning, to feel the sun, to notice the day, to sing a good morning to the earth and each other. A slow walk allows us to notice all the details – the footprints, ice puddles, water puddles, whatever we might encounter. We are experiencing the natural world around us and these are early science lessons. When I am in wonder about the world around me, the children will be in wonder with me. We make our way to the back yard to do large motor activities with seasonal song and rhyme. This is anchoring and grounding for children and the seasons make it different, even when it’s the same. After that, the children have child-led outdoor play time.

Then we head inside and offer ample time for the children to get their outdoor gear off, use the restroom and wash hands. Like the rest of the day, I lead them in picture, song and rhyme so they learn where to put all their belongings. This daily routine of putting our belongings away are foundational markers for how to do your homework later in the grades. It helps develop a healthy sense of will. Of course, all kinds of mayhem happens but it is a beautiful formed chaos. We spend time indoors in child-led play and imitation of home life. During this time, we make organic whole grain snacks, prepare vegetables for soup, color or do handwork. This time feels like a warm home life, a group of brothers and sisters getting to work out a sense of belonging while also keeping a sense of self in the whole.

After play time is over, we clean. Our class of two to five year olds can clean up in 10 minutes because everything is in the same place, and everything has a story to help them learn what to do. For example, the children might bring the lumber truck to the woodshed. Children are always in their imagination and want to play, so they jump on board to clean up. This lays the foundation for cognitive thinking.

From there, we wash hands in preparation for circle time and snack. Circle work is the “academics” where we share poetry and intentional movement. Snack is served in real glass bowls with cloth napkins, with a verse of gratitude for the food. We eat our snack and practice sitting and taking turns talking or sharing humor. After snack, the children clear their plates, eagerly scarping their compost into the bin, which will go to the chickens.

We wash hands one more time and then it’s back into the cubby room to get dressed for more outdoor play. We finish the day by coming inside for a story and our goodbye poem and song.

Some themes for me are never wanting children to feel rushed. This is where they feel like they can have all the time in the world to move in beauty, move in the cadence of time, without the rushed anxiety. We are coaching emotional intelligence; we are learning through practicing and being. I strive to build trust with the children so they know we always have a lap for them, we are there when they need us. They are safe and loved.

How much outside time do the children get? Do you think this will last as we begin to live with COVID?

Weather permitting, we will stay outside through the day except for the big in breath time, circle, story and snack. Right now, we have been indoors more because of what the weather is. When it warms up, we will extend our outside time. We can do a lot outside, like food prep and handwork. Being outdoors is nurturing.

If you could pass any wisdom to EC parents, what would you share?

Let your child feel they have all the time in the world. Don’t let your child get caught in the tow rope of adult life, of rushing through things. Even when you are rushing out the door because you’re late, stay present. It’s all right, we will get there.

If you could be a student in any other teacher’s class for a day, which would you pick and why?

I would pick Ms. Moore’s class, which is my son’s class, so I could see what they are up to!