Betty Wood, Director
While working as director of Inman Park Cooperative Preschool, I consulted with [OCP founders] Laura LeDuke and Michelle Davis-Watts about creating OCP. They continued to consult with me as they founded OCP in 2005. Having been on OCP’s Advisory Council and resigning from IPCP, I was invited to interview for director of OCP in March of 2008. Since I had experienced best practices and challenges at IPCP, I wanted to ensure that OCP and I were a good fit. When offered the position, I expected to begin work in August. The OCP board invited me to begin working with them in April and May to orient me to OCP and hire teachers for the 2008-09 school year. It was definitely a good fit.
The teachers and I have noticed that most of the children enrolled at OCP this year seem to have well-developed interpersonal skills. They are naturally kind and caring. I am excited about working with the teachers and parents in helping the children find the language to clearly express their emotions and communicate effectively with their peers. We already see many friendships forming. Hopefully this year will give the children a strong foundation for creating and strengthening friendships throughout their lives.
I appreciate our nature-based curriculum. Spending time outdoors is naturally healing and grounding for children and adults. Some of the child’s first experiences are in nature with their parents. The child is curious in exploring nature and learning about their world. Our curriculum supports the child’s exploration and confirms their confidence in the world around them. Bonds established in nature are deeper and more enduring.
I wanted to teach again, but it needed to be a very special place. OCP is an inspiration on so many levels, and the search for inspiration truly led me here! A simple online search led to an interview, and that led to being the Chickadee teacher.
I am excited to explore the spontaneity within the plans! Chickadees will tell you what is on their mind in very interesting ways. So being alert to the little phrases or the looks of wonder or the discoveries they make along the way is what I am excited to catch wind of and infuse into the planned learning!
I love how OCP follows nature and her seasons for curriculum inspiration. That is definitely one of my favorite aspects of OCP’S curriculum, but there are so many!
[Larks teacher] Margie Ashe has been one of my best friends for years. When she started teaching at OCP a few years ago, I thought she had found the perfect job. For a mom of elementary-age kids, the location and hours were ideal, and she always spoke so highly of the OCP community and culture. The following year, when Margie moved to the Larks class, the Wrens teaching job opened up, and I was so excited to apply for the job. OCP has lived up to its reputation. I really enjoy teaching the Wrens class and being surrounded by such fantastic people.
I’m most excited for the fall and our Harvest festival. We just did a planting this week, so the kids are very enthusiastic about tending our garden. They have been watering the plants and seeds diligently. It will be so fun to see the plants grow and harvest them with the children in November! To prepare for the festival, we will work together to wash and chop the vegetables and make soup. I love being with the children through this process and helping them see what they are capable of doing.
The thing that I enjoy hearing the most from the children is “I did it!” Their faces are filled with such joy when they are able to accomplish difficult tasks, such as zipping their coat, putting on their shoes, or preparing banana bread for snack. The children are included in all of our daily tasks, and our focus is on the process instead of the end result. This allows the children to try hard things and to grow in confidence as they are able to do more for themselves and each other as we go through the year.
I was working with Betty at Inman Park Co-op, and when OCP decided to start a pre-k program, I came and presented my ideas. They liked it, so I joined the staff in 2007 as the first pre-k (Larks) teacher. I left OCP for a time when my son, Jackson, was born. We came back in 2012 as a co-op family, and Jackson started as a Wren. During his three years at OCP, I subbed frequently, including some long-term subbing. I knew I always wanted to return to teaching, and this year the timing was right!
In my class of eight boys, I will be exploring conscious discipline, helping my kids become more assertive and use their “big boy” voices with their friends in the classroom.
My favorite part of OCP’s curriculum is the idea that process is more important than product. We explore this in many ways in our classroom activities, but it also extends into daily life. I love that the kids are able to live in their own world at OCP, and don’t have to fit into our grown-up world like they do outside of school. We recently did splatter painting in class, and I documented the technique we used to splatter the paint. But then they had the freedom to play in the paint afterward and smear it on their paper, so it didn’t end up looking like a splatter painting. The point wasn’t the final product, but the process and fun we had getting there.
Betty brought me to OCP. I first got to know her when she was the director of my daughter’s preschool, Inman Park Cooperative Preschool, and then I started working with her at Inman Park. When she came to OCP, I decided to join her.
This year I would like to focus on the natural world around us here in Georgia. We will learn about trees, the forest, and the creatures who make it their home.
The aspect of our curriculum that is most important to me is right there in the name, cooperative. My daughter went to a cooperative preschool and I loved that the small size of the school and the parental involvement meant that she became familiar with the other teachers and the parents of her schoolmates as well as the other children. The presence of the parents truly creates a warm and safe community, which is a wonderful step into the wider world for children who have, until that time, been used to the small community of their family.
What is your OCP story?
I came to OCP as a parent in 2006. We had just moved to Decatur from Cobb County and were so happy to find a like-minded community. I assumed the experience would be primarily for my daughter, but I wound up learning so much here as a parent and as a teacher. Lillian, now in middle school, is still close to many of the friends she made at OCP.
I’ve spent the summer reading about making picture books with young children. My goal is for the Larks to see themselves as writers, even if their books only contain illustrations. Just because a child isn’t ready to transcribe a story doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of creating a story and thinking deeply about the craft of writing.
I really appreciate our emphasis on process over end product. Making cute crafts that all look the same would not be very fulfilling. I’ve always been inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, where the curriculum and projects emerge from the children’s interests. What makes my job as the Larks teacher fun and challenging is finding ways to implement the pre-K standards into our child-led curriculum.