What did Nursery School Mean to Me?
It is my earliest memory, I approach the building feeling my mother’s hand clutching mine. We walk up the stairs to the front entrance, I notice the stone benches on either side of the door as my mother rings the bell. In my memory, I spend just one day at the Nursery school, playing with the wooden toys and puzzles, which are the answer to my childhood dreams. I remember the easels and paint set, the books, the dolls, the blocks. When I look back, they are like treasures that I take down from the shelf and turn over and over in my mind. In reality, I am enrolled at the Nursery School in the small town of Williamsport, Pennsylvania for just three weeks.
I was three years old and though it seems impossible that at such an early age I would have thought that I was in the right place, that was how I always remembered the Nursery school. The environment was a safe, nurturing, creative and intellectually exciting place and I remember longing to return. Much to my regret, my days at the Nursery school were all too brief. The year was 1953 and my dear mother, who had enrolled me at the school so that she could work part-time at the local factory, was overcome with guilt at the thought of leaving me in the care of others. It was a time when most mothers were “stay at home” and she believed that leaving me at the school would be irresponsible.
Many years passed before the powerful memory of my three weeks in the Nursery school fully returned to me. It was when I first walked into the Little Folks Nursery School in Washington, DC. The small tables and chairs, the wooden toys, the layout of the playroom, all brought me back to that earlier experience. The year was 1979, and though I had no way of knowing it at the time, this feeling of being in the right place would lead me to remain at the school for the next 38 years.
I begin with my own nursery school experience because even though the world has changed significantly in the last half-century, the needs of young children have not. My experience in a safe, loving and intellectually stimulating environment is what parents should strive for when they enroll their child in a nursery school or day care center. This first school experience will be the foundation for all future learning and as with my own story, it will be a powerful beginning.