About Me

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Certified PreK-6. Masters in Child Development. Advocate for play, teacher & children choice, & the family's voice. Believe in volunteering as social justice.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

To the Parents of the Wonderful Little People

A member of my learning network on Twitter (the wonderful @happycampergirl) has posed the question, "What do you wish parents knew?"  Teachers from across the grades and spanning the globe have answered her, see what they said, and I have chosen to answer her here in the context of my playful little blog.

Speaking as a preschool teacher, a nanny, and an early learning specialist, there are a few things that I wish parents knew.

I wish you knew how competent and creative your children are and to embrace their unique spirit rather than looking to compare them to one an other.  

I wish that you would allow them the opportunity to take risks and make mistakes for that is how they will grow.

I wish you knew that the children are always listening and watching and what you say and do is always caught by them, even when you think they are not paying attention.  And they will share your secrets with me and everyone else in the room and will mimic your behavior.

I wish that you would stop giving your child empty praise because a litany of meaningless "wows", "good job", and "amazings" will not retain any value and instead please notice and remark upon the things that your child is doing so that they will understand what it is they are doing that pleases you and will learn to internalize their own self praise.

I wish that you would believe me when I tell you that your child will learn to read, they will learn to write, and they will develop the academic skills.  There is time for that as they approach elementary school.  Right now, in preschool and at home, they need to play.  They need to explore.  They need to find joy in learning.  They need to learn how to communicate their ideas, desires, emotions.  They need to be able to function within a group of children.  Please stop insisting that I teach them to read and instead respect their play, their development, and all that they are learning.

I wish that we work together as partners and that you respect the experiences I have with your child and what these tell me about them, and I promise to respect the experiences that you have with your child and what those tell you about them.  And I wish that we have open and respectful communication knowing that we both want the very best for the child.

And most of all, I wish that you would lay off of yourselves.  No parent, teacher, nanny, is perfect.  We all make mistakes, but we all love the children and we are all doing what we believe is the best for the children.  Do what you feel is best, ask for help and support, but don't judge yourself against other parents.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dear Mr. President

I recently saw on Twitter that by contributing money to the campaign fund that you are entered to win a lunch with the president. That led me to thinking about what I would say to President Obama should I have the opportunity to speak with him. And I concluded that I would probably be carted away by the secrete service for being overly passionate and excitable about early childhood services. That or for carrying around bubbles in a carry on at the airport And that perhaps being considered a national threat may not look too swell on my resume.

Regardless, there are several things that I would like to tell the president.

Children learn through play. Since the time of Vygotsky we have known that play is the work of the child and research is telling us the same thing today. So please stop allowing accountability efforts to be past that eliminate play from the classrooms. There are other ways to account for the effectiveness of teachers.

Enough with the misuse of standardized tests! State tests are designed (poorly) to supposedly find out what a child/group of children have learned thus far. Stop allowing the data from these tests to be used to demean teachers, label children, and over all decide the fate of schools. If you must insist on using the tests, use them as tests were intended, to guide instruction and learn what areas of study children need more time to master.

Children need to play. I say this again because play is becoming endangered in the government. Children need to play often and in many different ways including outside. If you want to change the structure of schools then change it so there is time for play and time spent outdoors. Celebrate play rather than making it the scapegoat for student achievement gaps.

Trust teachers. Teachers are the ones who are in the classrooms day in and day out and the ones who have child development knowledge. Teachers are the ones who can tell you how to structure a day so that children are able to achieve success. Stop allowing the nation to blame teachers and instead insist that they support and respect teachers.

In order to be successful students in later grades children need to be explorers, problem solvers, creative thinkers, and team players. The common core standards are completely inappropriate in regards to child development. To be ready for kindergarden our young learners need to learn to ask for help, to play and work with others, to attend to a task, and to have a joy for learning. This is much more important than bring able to identify random letters. Trust me, they'll learn how to read, but they need to be socially emotionally competent first.

Finally, I like you President Obama, I think your heart is in the right place, but you need to place your trust in folks who have a solid foundation in child development to advise in the reform of education. My classmates are ready to graduate (and believe me, we are taught by some of the best in the field), trust me, they will be happy to teach the department of education how to chart student progress through authentic assessment and how to create positive schools and successful, happy students.

On second thought, perhaps I would just rather speak to Mrs. Obama. She clearly has a deep passion for childhood and play.

On the other hand, perhaps President Obama needs to hear from us impassioned childhood development people. So pay up folks and maybe one of us will win the opportunity to have the president's ear and affect the course of educational reform.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Where's the Joy?

With so much emphasis across the nation over the importance of standardized tests and common standards, I worry that the joy of learning, the joy of childhood is becoming endangered. Since when is it the "norm" to have kindergartens and first grades that exist without singing, dancing, art, laughter, and play?

What are we really teaching the children when we take the joy out of school and instead put so much emphasis on getting the right answers over trying it out? Are we teaching the children that it's more important to sit still and take in information without questioning it? That there is no time for the art of discovering who we are? That joy and fun doesn't belong in the classroom?

At a conference last summer one of the speakers told us to do nothing without joy. That true learning cannot happen in the absence of joy. If we want the children to truly learn, to get into the process of discovery and mistake making then we need to provide time for joy. We need to advocate for play and art and music an everything that is so important in a child's day. We need to advocate for it everyday so that it doesn't become extinct.