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Where is the ‘Third Teacher’ during Covid?

May 10, 2021 | Nathan Johnson

Children have three teachers at school —

Grownups, their environment, and, perhaps most importantly,

each other. 

Traditionally at Mustard Seed, this has included not only children from their own year and classroom, but a myriad of other children of many ages and from many classrooms.

But this year the mandate was clear, starting with those now all-too-familiar phrases …

“Out of an abundance of caution …”

“In accordance with CDC guidelines …”

Classrooms in schools will not intermingle.

Not in the classroom, not in the studio, not in the music room, not in the gym, not even in the park.

So how have children between grades continued to learn from one another? 


Here are three ways just in the last 4 days of school …

We learn from other Preschool Classes!

Usually, in Preschool, we all gather in one classroom and worship together. If one class knows a song — we all know a song! This year, we all have a slightly different “set” of songs, as things develop differently in each classroom. But last week we received an unexpected gift! The Trees Class really wanted everyone to know a certain song because they loved it so much, and so they made this movie for us…


The Rivers Class loved learning this song from the Trees Class. 

We learn from Kindergarteners!

The Rivers Class often admires the Kindergarten Display in the hallway on the way in our out of the building. On this particular day, we had some extra time, as we had come in early from the rain, and we asked if a Kindergartener could come out and say a few words about the lovely animals on display. To our surprise and delight, two Kindergarteners came out and warmly welcomed us, telling us all about the subject matter (South African animals), the materials (clay and paint), the artists (all of their names), and their process (too many details to recount). Rivers children asked many questions, and the Kindergarteners answered them thoroughly and proudly.

We learn from Second Graders!

During free reading after snack, the children look through books, reading the pictures (or reciting words from memory) and they often discuss their hopes and dreams of reading someday. So it only makes sense that one of the children’s favorite times of day is the read-aloud at the end of the day. During a normal year, we enjoy welcoming guest readers — Other teachers, parent volunteers, experts in an area of study, older children, etc — many reader role models to help them look forward to growing into readers.

This year, the children’s ‘reader menu’ has been quite limited; either Ms. Buckley or Mr. Johnson, so imagine the children’s surprise when we circled up around our nest for the read-aloud and the computer was in the teacher’s spot! Ms. Buckley opened Zoom and up popped … a second grader. And to further our delight, he read us a rousing rendition of The Three Billy Goats Gruff, which we are currently acting out in Drama (more on that later!) The children were transfixed by the voice of an older child and were a model audience. 

I even included a few mistakes on purpose,said the Second Grader,Just so they know it’s OK!

Nathan Johnson

Early Childhood & Lower School Visual Art Teacher

Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts (focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry), Theatre, and Elementary Education, followed by further time in Europe studying Art, and in Nova Scotia working with adults with developmental differences.

Happily back at his Alma mater (MSS class of 1995) Nathan has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, allowed to play, struggle, get dirty, and above all, to be taught that they are a beloved child of God.

When not in the classroom, Nathan can be found kayaking, camping, hosting a game night, wandering around New York City, making friends with strangers, and spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.

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