Five Things Policy Makers Ought to Know

4 Aug

I’ve been tagged to do this meme by a fellow teacher over at Elbow, Knees, Dreams.  Stop in and visit her, she has terrific ideas.

As a preschool teacher, what do I want policy makers to know about preschool education?

1. Most preschoolers are not ready to read.  Four and Five year olds need to learn to sit for a story, stand in a line, keep their hands, feet and spit to themselves. They need to learn to wash their hands, zip their jackets, put on their shoes and put their things in their cubbies or backpacks. They need to learn to take turns, share and cooperate. They need to learn to take care of school supplies and clean up the toys they’ve played with. They need to learn that school can be a fun and a wonderful place to discover new things. They need to develop gross motor and fine motor skills. They need to explore and feel safe in their school environment. And then, only then, when all the foundations are there, can they begin the process of learning to read. A child who cannot sit for a story will have no interest in learning his/her letters and sounds. A child will learn when he/she is ready. It takes me a whole school year to help these children get there. Please understand that I am an advocate for literacy, and build a strong foundation for my students, but that does not mean I will teach them to read.

2. Preschool is not Kindergarten.  I cannot teach Kindergarten level academics to four year olds and be successful. I see these children 2.75 hours/3 days a week, and as I said in my first statement the average preschooler is not ready for a Kindergarten environment. Let me do my job, so that when these children get to Kindergarten they can be successful there. Four year olds need to be four year olds. We are forcing our children to grow up too fast.

3. Please pay all preschool teachers (this includes me) what they are worth. I know I work only 3 days a week and I have the summers off. However, my salary puts me way below the poverty line. I could work at some big box retailer or convenience store for the same number of hours that I put into teaching and get paid twice what I get paid now. I may only teach 3 days a week, but on my days off I plan, research, prepare, and pour my heart and soul into my teaching duty. In the past week, a month before school starts, I’ve put in almost 16 hours of prep time, for which I do not get paid, and I will add many more hours to that, before school even begins. Some could argue that I receive a yearly salary taking into account a portion of my prep time. Most weeks I average about 8-12 hours of prep time. Time invested and what I’m paid do not add up. For the record, I would not be able to teach preschool if my husband did not have the job that he has. It enables me to do what I love. My preschool could charge more tuition (we are a small (80 students) preschool), but then these families could not afford to send their children. A government that creates standards needs to create ways to pay for these standards, without putting more stress on the average family’s budget.

4. Standards are important, but be careful of what you wish for. I am not a fan of “No Child Left Behind.” I think politicians had good intentions, but were completely misguided. I wonder how many of these policy makers have spent a day in a regular classroom. In my opinion, too much time is being spent on tests and evaluations. Have they observed the environments in which too many teachers have to work in? Have they addressed the needs of the teachers? Have they built in support for these teachers? I realize the policy was for the students, but in order to have successful students you need successful teachers. In order to have successful teachers there needs to be a successful support system. Checks and balances are important for the students as well as the teachers. Provide a strong education for teachers, so that they can do the same for their students.

5. Families need to be involved.  We all know that good students can come from bad families, and that bad students can come from good families. However, in my experience, the more involved a family is, the better off the child will be. Please do not put the yoke of responsibility just on the teacher. I think it is also the responsibility of the parents/grandparents/guardians to be a part of their child’s education. Provide help for families of young children, so that these families can be stronger and provide a strong foundation for these young learners.

I’m sure I could make this list longer, but I will stop at five things, since that was what the meme was about.

I’d love to hear your opinion on this.

Mrs. V

Do you think any candidates running for office will read this?  I wish they would, then I’d know they really do care, and won’t just shower me with the things they think I want to hear.  **sigh**

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16 Responses to “Five Things Policy Makers Ought to Know”

  1. jdk(dawny) August 5, 2008 at 1:54 am #

    Everything you said in there is so true. Teachers
    like you are not paid enough . I have no kids,but
    im behind you 100%, they need to let you do your
    job, you are the expert, not us. :)

  2. kiri8 August 5, 2008 at 7:11 am #

    Well done! It was great reading this. You’re right about what preschool teachers get paid, and I should have added that to my “universal preschool” item when I did this meme. It isn’t possible for parents to pay more; the government needs to subsidize daycare and preschool so that we can pay the teachers adequately. (I remember when I worked in daycare; I made $7.00 an hour. Then after a year, they offered me a 10 cent raise!)

  3. Mr Geek August 5, 2008 at 7:26 am #

    Good for you.

    I hate these generic policies like “No Child Left Behind” because, it sound unarguable. I mean who wants a child to be failed by the system?

    But so much of it is rhetoric with no backing. You cant expect a system like that to work unless you take significant steps to increase resources for those children that require more, and to start a system like that a 4 years old is rediculous.

    When do kids get the chance to just be kids anymore!

  4. joanharvest August 5, 2008 at 8:37 am #

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I agree with you on all points. Well done, Mrs. V.

    I was fortunate when my kids went to preschool to have two wonderful teachers who adored their students. It was a co-op so parents had to take turns to assist the teachers every day. My children loved it and got a good base for kindergarten.

    #5 is so important to me. I spent so much time with my children when they were very young at playing games to teach them numbers and the alphabet. My daughter has a friend who is a stay at home mom and just sits her daughter in front of the TV all day.

    Both of my adult children still don’t watch TV because they weren’t brought up on it.

    I vote to give you a raise and all other teachers. Our gov’t spends so much money on crap but our teachers are our most important resource.

    It goes back to the song I put on my blog the other day “Teach Your Children Well” !!!!

  5. RC August 5, 2008 at 10:40 am #

    I agree with a lot of what you say because as a mom of a toddler, I’m scared of what is expected by the time Little Dude hits school.

    Yes, I work with him – I read to him, say the alphabet, count, recite nursery rhymes, play shape games, etc., but what if he take a bit longer on some items? What if he isn’t quite at the “writing his name and alphabet” level by the time he starts school?

    And to get him to the level he needs to be, do I forgo all fun activities with him, like playing with his cars, playing in the pool, dancing to music, etc?

    I’m involved, but “no child left behind,” scares me. Too much testing for our wee ones. Kids are learning to recite the right answers, and not actually learning how to get to those answers.

    I could go on and on…

    (And then I could start my speech on having good, affordable child care and better family benefits, but another day…)

  6. Juliann August 5, 2008 at 4:40 pm #

    Another great post. There must be some way we could get this in front of the people who are making the decisions.

  7. debra August 5, 2008 at 6:36 pm #

    I’m so glad there are caring dedicated people like you teaching our young ones! It makes me feel better about our future. Now, if you were only paid what you are worth!

  8. mrsvierkant August 5, 2008 at 9:15 pm #

    Debra: Thanks for such sweet compliments. :)

    Juliann: Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you liked it.

    RC: You’re doing exactly what you should be.

    Joan: Some parents don’t realize what a huge part they play in their child’s education. Interaction is so important, and you can’t get that when the TV is on all the time.

    Mr. Geek: I totally agree with you!

    Kiri: Oooh, a 10 cent raise. How generous, LOL. Seriously, lawmakers need to realize that teachers and day care providers are worth more than slightly above minimum wage.

    dawny: Thanks for your support.

    Everyone: Thank you so much for taking the time to read my list. It’s nice to hear from all of you!

  9. Julie August 6, 2008 at 8:32 am #

    Great post! … Maybe you could send it anon to the school board?

  10. mrsvierkant August 6, 2008 at 8:32 pm #

    Julie: Thanks!

  11. plozano76 August 8, 2008 at 7:17 pm #

    While we do have 5-yr. olds who are reading beyond 1st grade level at our school, I agree wholeheartedly that FIRST must come the self-discipline and autonomy, and THEN the academics. Otherwise, these kids will be diagnosed as ADHD a few years down the road, because they never learned to control their impulses and their bodies! And, yes, families need to be on board. They need to understand the importance of helping their children become independent, and they must follow through with consequences! How is the child expected to put away his materials if his parents pick up after him at home?? Great post…

  12. organizedchaos August 9, 2008 at 8:59 am #

    amen! so well said. as a K/1 teacher #1 is SO important to me. When I was a classroom teacher in 1st grade I loved getting kids from the K teachers who hadn’t pushed the academics. Their children were more prepared for 1st grade than the ones who came in reading but couldn’t sit still. The pressure for our K teachers to have the kids reading is extreme, but it frustrates me so much because it sets them up to not be as successful in 1st grade. Teach them how to share, how to line up, let them play and develop. If they enter 1st grade without knowing their ABCs but with everything else in place I can teach them to read. If they enter 1st grade already reading but not able to sit beyond 5 minutes, not able to share, or get along with friends 1st grade is going to be a struggle for them. the pressure in K drives me crazy!

  13. mrsvierkant August 10, 2008 at 10:54 pm #

    plozano76: Thanks for the compliments.

    organizedchaos: That’s exactly what the 1st grade teacher I do volunteer work for told me.

  14. Barbra Stephens December 9, 2009 at 3:31 pm #

    I thought it was interesting you said to be careful what you wished for…being in the field of early childhood I am seeing bills being passed for worthy wages…ahem, why am I not thrilled just yet? Because I will probably need a PHD to get those wages…ah yes…always a catch.
    I agree with you, for years I always have. It is the way society puts a value on the most fragile of the generations. The young and the old…Economist James Heckmen is speaking out, and thank goodness people are listening…I hope society and policy makers will finally get it…for all our sakes…

  15. Robin Vermeer Bobo June 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    I am loving this!~ I so agree. As an early childhood educator for the last 21 years…from pre-school through 1st grade, I am always telling people that the standards are expecting too much from our babies too soon. Kinders do not need to know how to write complete sentences before they learn the sounds of the alphabet. They need to put social interaction back into kinder to let them learn how to get along with each other, how to co-exist and communicate with each other, and not make them sit at a desk most of the day trying to read and write. That’s what 1st grade is for…(I’ve been a 1st grade teacher for the past 16 years…and what we expect them to already know before I get them is more along the lines of what I need to be teaching. And what they want me to teach, 6 yr olds are not ready to learn yet…it’s beyond their cognitive scope sometimes.) I love your blog about this!

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  1. Because it is late, and I am tired… « Don’t put boogers in your neighbor’s cereal… - August 6, 2008

    [...] Five Things Policy Makers Ought to Know [...]

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