When I "arrived" at the school, I was a scriptwriter and video producer. In Washington DC that means corporate, political, and news work. I had moved into freelancing when my first son was born and was quite busy taking on jobs as they came along, but after my first co-oping day, I was hooked. Every bit of my career's moment-to-moment problem-solving skills and creativity were put into play -- literally, into the play. It made so much sense to me to stay.
My story is not unusual in the world of cooperative preschools. Many of the cooperative school teachers I know are second career teachers, drawn to cooperatives for the community aspect and staying for that very same reason.
Cooperative schools were founded to support and sustain community. While what jumps out for people, first and foremost, is that cooperative nurseries offer care and education for young children, this is not why cooperative schools were formed. Cooperative schools were formed to provide mothers with work experience and continued and diverse educational opportunities. All that was housed in a communal effort because women know instinctively that we are stronger together. Childcare, since this falls in laps of mothers, had to be part of the whole endeavor. If you want to learn more about this look no further than the life's work of Tillie Olsen.
It stands to reason that as we learned more about the importance of quality early childhood education and the need to protect the play-based model and parent cohesion that this was a natural partnership. The cooperative model mirrored the growth of early childhood education while still holding onto the ideals of the parent education and sustaining community.
Some things have changed over the years. Fathers are now directly involved in cooperatives. We see this beginning to happen in articles written in the early 60s and 70s. Parents more often arrive at our school with education, skills, and careers already on track, but our same mission holds true. Each new group takes on the ownership and administration of the school. They share their diverse knowledge with other parents open to learning more. They add the skills they learn while at the school to the set they already have. Some parents change careers, some go back to school, and almost all of them gain something that will improve how they approach parenting and their work.
In the end, for me, the message was heard loud and clear and I have stayed and stayed, all the while hoping to grow the school's potential and hold dear the founders' intention to create a community of learners. Hear, hear, PARENT cooperatives!