Saturday, May 1, 2010

Debunking a few myths about early childhood education

Myth #1 The younger the children, the easier it is to teach them in a classroom setting

This is a widely held belief among teachers in my building who have never attempted to teach in an early childhood classroom. I think that every level has its own unique challenges. A good teacher will make it look easy to the casual observer, but that does not mean that he or she thinks it actually is.

I work hard every single day of every week for the entire school year. I was annoyed this past week when a current second grade teacher in my building announced that she would be teaching kindergarten for the last three years before her retirement because she wanted "it to be a little easier." I wish her all the luck in the world come September when she is trying to console 22 five and six year olds who are crying because they miss their mommies. I wish her even more luck when the differences in ability at the age become apparent. Some kids will be coming from a high quality pre-K classroom (like mine) and have all of these amazing academic readiness skills while others are coming from daycare settings and still others are coming away from their parents for the first time. I wonder if in December if she will still think its easy.

Myth #2 All you do is play all day anyways
I think this contributes to myth one above. Yes a good early childhood classroom offers students opportunities to learn through play as that is how young children learn best. That does not mean that the students play from the time they enter the classroom until the dismissal bell rings 6 hours later. Our day includes breakfast and lunch, rest, small group activities, recess, story time, music and large group discussion in addition to center time.
Myth #3 Early Childhood Education doesn't really matter, we need to focus on the grades that take the state standardized test
Early Childhood education does matter. Students in our district don't come to school knowing how to be in school. They need to be taught everything from how to sit on the rug to how to line up to how to wait their turn and get adult attention appropriately. They sometimes need to be taught how to separate from their parents and their parents need to know what is and is not appropriate for a school setting versus a home setting. All of this is in addition to instilling a life long love learning and teaching all of the academic skills that later serve as the foundation for higher level skills and deeper understanding. Can you imagine a fourth grader sitting down to take the state test without being able to separate from his parents, or understand that print moves from left to right, top to bottom?
My administrator is allowing a person to take an early childhood position because he feels that her current position is too close to the age when students take the state tests. I disagree with this notion. I think that if early childhood education was truly understood and supported in my building, we could work together as a school community to give the students an excellent start. Maybe we need the very best teachers in our building to be teaching preK and kindergarten so that students start off as best they can, so that they are given the foundation they need to soar and our set on the path toward reaching their personal bests. By ignoring or devaluing or early childhood, and putting teachers who simply want to pass the time in those positions, you are hurting students chances of success later on. Success is cumulative and not necessarily based on the testing year.