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26 August 2015 @ 03:35 pm
Let them eat paste  
Yes, you read that correctly. Instead of let them eat cake, I am suggesting that we let them eat paste. I am talking, of course (and facetiously) about kindergarten. Several things have accumulated lately to start me thinking of those early years.

One item had to do with career readiness and kindergarten students. Really? I did not attend kindergarten (it did not exist when I was a kid, yes I AM that old) but I can recall thinking at that age that I might like to be a star, an artist, a ballerina or tap dancer. Becoming a teacher was not even in the ballpark for me. Having taught 4 year olds for a couple of years while I was finishing up my coursework to become a teacher, I heard all manner of "career" speculations from the kids in my charge. For the most part, careers had to do either with what their parents did or with someone they saw in the media often.

Another item that made me reflect on kindergarten had to do with a relative who talked about testing for kindergarten and then placing kids into "sections" depending on the skills they brought with them. In that school, kindergartners were expected to be able to form their letters, write their names, read a simple book. WTW? Benchmarking kids that soon? Gloriosky (do folks even say that anymore?).

I remembered the kindergarten experience of the former resident of the back bedroom who attended a preschool near the university. It was more Montessori based; it offered all kinds of centers; it talked to the kids about their interests. One day, my kindergartner came home knowing how to count to 10 in Japanese. The next day? It might have been a visit to the local county fair and the animals she saw that she now wanted as pets. Much of what she shared had to do with the books read to her.

There was "art" (and not the black master variety where all kids did worksheets that somehow incorporated cutting and pasting and coloring). There was music. There was movement. There was snack and nap time. There were hugs. This was a place where kids were the focus, the center.

What I have read of late troubles me. When did kindergarten become a place for testing and placing and remediation. Who decided career readiness was a topic? And what is getting displaced because of this idiocy? I suspect read alouds, book time, choice are all victims of the "new" kindergarten. How sad. How awful. How wrong.
Current Location: home
Current Mood: puzzled
Sherry BorgrenSherryTeach on August 27th, 2015 01:48 am (UTC)
Kindergarten was optional in 1960 when I started school, but I have vivid and positive memories of learning how to fold paper into pinwheels, do a forward roll on a mat, sort pretty colored blocks by color and size, peel the paper off of crayons when they got short, and bend a straw into funny shapes. I don't remember doing anything "academic" though we might have learned letters and numbers. I very specifically learning to read in first grade, though nothing terrible happened to the kids who took a little longer. No testing.

And you know what? I'm a perfectly capable "college and career ready" adult and it's entirely possible that the reason I love books now is that my literacy education was about storytelling and pleasure.

I feel terrible for what has happened to early childhood education and I worry about what it will be like for my grandson when he goes to school in a few years.