We had a wonderfully attended Open House on Saturday. I’m always “on.” I’m careful to introduce myself to new parents. I try to be respectful of the “brand new” little ones who may or may not want a stranger talking to them. I try to figure out the best way to connect with them (it might be over a truck later in the morning, or showing them our rabbit.) I make time for current students who have news to tell me. I try to hold back tears when TALL “alumni” bring their little brothers and sisters and show them around.
Ok, back to the title, what happened AGAIN? Apparently, when I talk about preschoolers’ education, I get a bit… animated! I never realize it until I see a grin, and (usually the dad) says, “You’re really passionate about this.”
Huh. Yes I am. I’ve been teaching for over 30 years, have been taking care of babies since I was 12, and have been a parent for almost 27 years now. I proudly say that my degree IS in Early Childhood education. I’m also certified as a special education teacher. I worked hard for my degree, and graduated magna cum laude. I’ve EARNED this title of TEACHER.
(A gift from a parent!)
I’ve seen the “pendulum” shift over the years. What does that mean? The “right” (popular) way to teach has changed every couple of years. (Mostly in the elementary grades.) I always appreciated my early childhood degree (I got it in 1980 before it was “smooshed” in with Elementary.) We learned HOW children learn, not WHAT they learn. I had a wonderful mentor, Renee Bennet, who encouraged us to think out of the box. Don’t fall back on holidays and other stereotypes. What do children LOVE? What everyday things can be explored?
We learned Developmentally Appropriate Practice before it had a name. PROCESS, NOT PRODUCT was the mantra. What does that mean? It means children get so much more out of exploring materials than replicating something the teacher precuts ahead of time and tells them where to glue the pieces.
So, when do my hands start flying? When I talk about how kindergarteners are often treated like first graders, and some preschools think THEY have to become kindergarten. Or their perception of kindergarten.
Children need to play. Children need to explore. They need to get messy. They need to be read to. They need to sing and dance. Preschoolers do not learn sink or float by doing a worksheet! They learn it by getting wet. They need to be met at THEIR level, and not what some adults think they SHOULD be doing!
Letters and numbers are used to express or decode someone’s thoughts and experiences. Before you can write about your experiences, YOU NEED TO HAVE EXPERIENCES!!!! H might be for hill, but it’s far more important for a child to run down a hill, climb back up the hill, roll down the hill, find a flower on the hill and explore that hill before the H even makes an appearance! All of those movements and experience stimulate the brain far more than looking a flashcard and saying “H.”
(Ha! I’ve been typing furiously, I’m sure if I were talking to you in person, I’d be pacing around the room right now!)
At a recent parent meeting, I asked the parents to think about THE most important thing their child needs to learn. I waited, then told them my opinion.
The most important thing for a young child to learn is that s/he is loved. S/he has a warm, supportive family (in whatever shape that takes) that will be there no matter what. The adults in his/her life may not always like WHAT they do, but they will always love THEM. Someone whose got their backs. People to guide them. Looking at my adult sons, I think the greatest gift we’ve given them is a sense of family. Teachers came and went, they survived the different teaching philosophies, some better than others. What has not changed is family.
(Daddy the snow monster carries our hero off!)
That’s why I get so passionate about my job. About this school. Family is a child’s foundation, it makes perfect sense to bring it into school! Of COURSE mom and dad are involved in school. Of COURSE Grandpa can read to the class when he’s visiting from Florida. We’re a team. School and family.
So go ahead, kiddo! Conquer that hill. Your parents and I are here.