Some time last year, the batteries in our clock died. Initially educators in our nursery team were met with a creeping sense of panic. “We have to find some batteries!” I heard one educator say while the other said “Hopefully we can change it over after morning tea!”
We spent so much time that morning looking for the batteries. However, in the centre that day, there were no AA batteries. We were obsessed with the clock and what it represented. So much so, that we were blinded to the thing that mattered the most: the children we care for. We had almost become a computerised system of routines, with many individual routines memorised by time instead of by cue.
We preached about how we followed the routines of each child yet we lived by that clock. The clock reduced our ability to connect to the children in our care, to be truly in tune and recognise those subtle signs of communication of their needs.
Eventually, we took the clock off the wall completely. We learnt to sensitively observe each child. We learnt to recognise the difference in each child’s walking when their nappy is dry compared to if they were in need of a change. We learnt the difference of a teething pain cry to that of a tired cry. We came to know it was nearly lunch time when the children made their way to the tables.
Our practice has changed dramatically since the removal of the clock. We are more present and more available to the children in our care. We are not only showing up, but showing up in time to meet their needs.
The removal of the clock has allowed me to listen to Magda Gerber’s words… I hear her saying “I wish children could grow according to their natural pace: sleep when sleepy, wake up when rested, eat when hungry, cry when upset, play and explore without being unnecessarily interrupted. In other words, be allowed to grow and blossom as each was meant to.”
I am now better equipped to meet each child’s needs through the sensitive observation of their play and cues. I feel so empowered as an educator that the pressure of the clock has been alleviated.
I challenge you to take your clock down for just one week. Your dependency on it may surprise you, and what may surprise you even more is your ability to know where you are up to in your day based on what the children are doing.
Emma is the Nursery Room Leader at Green Gables Kindergarten in Australia. She completed RIE® Foundations™ in 2021 with Elena Marouchos.