Each year my group of kids do a good job in putting away materials. But this group of kids are already very proficient. They put away materials and straighten the centers. And they also clear tables and want to put materials in cabinets, too. They are champion cleaners.
We also follow a predictable routine. We have activities. We clean up. We gather chairs and take them to the same area of the room. We make a semicircle. We enjoy learning together. Our routine is predictable but flexible and varied. Although I've had some other struggles with this class, I've felt that our general schedule and ability to work together has been going well.
Cindy and I were out of town last week for the holiday. Some substitutes took care of the class for us. Cindy was talking to one of the subs, asking how things went while we were out.
"Did they help clean up?" Cindy asked.
"Oh, yes," she replied. "They knew exactly where everything went. And which things went into the bag" (for us to take home).
Then the sub said the kids told them where to sit and what to do next. When both of the subs sat in the circle, kids said that wasn't right. (Cindy usually sits behind the kids so she can be ready to help anyone as needed.) The kids knew the routine and how things were supposed to flow.
I felt a little worried that I had been making things too structured...but realized that it was not too structured, just predictable. Comfortable.
I remembered the Montessori quote about success being kids working as if the teacher does not exist. And that's what they were doing. I wasn't there but the community was continuing as it should. And I'm okay with that. In fact, I feel successful.