Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's Hot!!! (and a bit of a kindergarten soapbox)

Are you in the middle of a heat wave too? It's really hot here! Thank goodness for our house having central air, though it doesn't quite reach to the upstairs..

Just had to stop by and share the giggle that I had this morning. I am finalizing all the paperwork to do my Master's "practicum" in my classroom this fall. My advisor emailed me, asking if I would be able to meet the requirement of doing 2 hours worth of reading/language arts instruction in my classroom daily, since I teach kindergarten. It was all I could do not to respond to her with a "LOL" or "You have GOT to be kidding me!".

I am well aware of why people can't believe kindergarten is academic to the level it is. When we (meaning people over the age of 20 or so) were in kindergarten, there was a much stronger focus on the social and emotional development of students than on the academic development. Students only came for half a day, and spent their time on songs and fingerplays, listening to stories (which do all build language and literacy skills!), had playtime, nap, and snack. I've heard it from parents many times, and my own fuzzy memories of kindergarten reinforce this. As anyone working in early childhood today knows, though, kindergarten is the "new first grade" (and it sometimes feels like second grade!). We spend the vast majority of our day in academic pursuits. Do we, as teachers, try to teach those academics is developmentally appropriate ways? Oh, my goodness, yes! But are we required to hit a level of academics teachers 20 years ago would never have imagined? Again, oh, my goodness, YES. The level of academics today even exceeds that which I taught when I first began in kindergarten about 10 years ago.

I often marvel that students I passed on to first grade, confident of their skills and abilities in my first few years of teaching, would be students I am significantly concerned about in today's kindergarten (I know, though, that they have grown into successful students!). However, as my administrator likes to say, yes, we are expecting more of our students, but we have also found, in the majority of cases, that they are READY for more. So, while we challenge students more than ever before, we have also found that, in many cases, maybe we weren't expecting enough before. I feel like I am walking a tightrope everyday, balancing the academics that are expecting a lot of my students, with meeting their developmental needs. It's a very fine line, and it means we need to be very aware of our students needs and abilities, their instructional levels, and that level where they are too frustrated to learn. The hard part at any grade, but especially at kindergarten, where so many students arrive with diverse learning backgrounds, After kindergarten, they all have some sort of common ground to work from, even if they aren't all at the same skill level for that background.

At any rate...I spend a large percentage of my day involved in literacy instruction. Reading, writing, speaking, listening...it really is the heart of kindergarten academics. When you add in the current expectations (via Common Core, which is in flux here in Michigan) for content area reading and writing to be happening as well, the question really should be, "Are there two hours worth of your day where you are not working on language arts skills?". I really don't believe there are. Thanks for giving my rant a bit of your time. I will try to be back soon with something more light-hearted...maybe a summary of my recent splurges at Target's Dollar Spot...they've had turquoise teacher "stuff" this year...and my room is turquoise, black, and white...so you just may be able to imagine my lack of self-control!  Stay cool and come back soon!

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