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.
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**