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.