Preschool, Kinder-Prep & 3 Things Kids Need Most #TeacherMom

It’s January and I have a 3 year-old that will be 4 by September. Translation (according to modern society): I should be in a panic because preschool application deadlines are upon us. And of course, after preschool comes kindergarten, and we’re told that academic success in kindergarten corresponds with future earnings.

No pressure.

Yet, when it comes to all that kinder-prep frenzy, I learned the hard way that that pressure does very little to produce a desirable effect, and I have no wish to repeat the experience.

For the sake of my friends and acquaintances in the same stressful boat who feel their sanity hangs by a thread, I want to share a few thoughts once more on this kinder-prep phenomenon.

First, recognize that as a loving, involved parent, you are enough. The scarcity mindset comes from a place of fear — fear that there’s something out there that we don’t have enough of, and it is the deal-breaker between success and failure (for us and our children). But as Brene Brown wrote,

I thought of this same principle when I saw this lovely post from Kristina Kuzmic:

Of course, this NOT intended to be mean preschool isn’t valuable and even necessary for many families. Programs like Head Start play a particularly valuable role, providing support for children that may not have as many advantages.

What this does mean is that we should never underestimate the impact of a loving and involved parent. As I’ve shared before from one of our local university preschools,

“You parents are already doing a great deal to insure success in kindergarten for your youngster. You read to your children, you go on family outings, you model a love for learning, but most of all you are very involved in the lives of your children. This will make kindergarten a wonderful time for your child, and start him/her on the road to a good education.”

Second, recognize that excessive focus on the future robs us of today’s opportunities.

It’s wonderful to want to ensure our kids can face whatever their futures hold. But sometimes we should pause and ask ourselves: are we focusing so much on the future that we forget to focus on their current developmental needs?

In other words, is it about the developmental needs of a 3-4 year-old, or is it about fear for what they might not be ready for when they turn 5?

This fearful approach might include excessive academic drilling, worksheets, or other highly-marketed programs that guarantee hitting every “kindergarten readiness” checklist item. For the most part, rich social interactions are what preschoolers developmentally need most at this age — playing outside with other kids, helping out with siblings, etc. Incidentally, such interactions are the very things that will best prepare them for future success in school anyway.

Third, recognize the importance of letting your child take the lead. 

If your preschooler is indicating interest in learning to read, by all means, pursue that. But if she is resolute in her passion for dinosaurs, please don’t abandon that because you are stressed about kinder-prep checklists. Follow their curiosity, because that precious zeal for learning will serve them far longer than the ability to identify all 52 upper & lower-case letters on the first day of kindergarten (also, keep in mind that there are about a thousand ways to create rich learning experiences that revolve around dinosaurs).

Following our kids’ lead also involves a greater emphasis on self-regulation. Helping our kids develop skills in stress-management and expressing their feelings will also empower them to take ownership over their lives and learning.

One more disclaimer before closing. Speech delays and learning disabilities are absolutely real and parents should be on the look-out for signs and resources to provide their children the support they need. I just wonder if sometimes we start from a place of assuming there is something wrong if our kids are not yet interested in counting and shapes when they are 3.

As we look toward the beginning of formal education, let us do so in a manner that will cultivate curiosity, joy, and ownership.

Relevant posts related to this topic that might be of interest:

Recommended Books & Resources:

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Top 20 Posts From 2017 That YOU Wrote

Bill Nye said,

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

This has been a gratifying truth when it comes to my professional learning network, or PLN. The fact that I get to learn from and with master teachers all over the world on a daily basis fills me with gratitude. So to share my appreciation and to share the highlights of my 2017 PLN learning, I want to share the top 20 blog posts (in no particular order) written by educators this year. As with my 2016 post, these are posts that I bookmarked, shared, revisited, and pondered. Thank you, as always, for pushing my thinking, and I look forward to discovering the learning that 2018 holds for us all!

#1: Want Better Faculty Meetings? Start Here. by Bill Ferriter

#2: Talking at Students Instead of With Students by Chad Walsh

#3: The Classroom by Heidi Allum

#4: Let’s Talk About Methods for Conferring by Elizabeth Moore

#5: Supporting Student Agency Take Two by Taryn BondClegg

#6: A Grading Journey of Epic Proportions (Part 1) by Jonathan So

#7: Desertification by Donalyn Miller

#8: Agency by Design by Sonya terBorg

 

#9: Reflection’s Reality: Learning is a Story by Monte Syrie

#10: The Best Lesson I Never Taught by Abe Moore

#11: Assessment Done With Students, Not to Students by Taryn Bond-Clegg

#12: The ‘So What’ of Learning by Edna Sackson

#13: Is Your School a Rules First or A Relationships First Community? by Bill Ferriter

#14: How Are We Traveling? Reflecting on the Story So Far by Kath Murdoch

#15: If We Build It, They Will Come: Tales From Inside the Sharing Circle by Lori Van Hoesen 

#16: When Adults Don’t Read, Kids Lose by Jennifer LaGarde

#17: #ClassroomBookADay And the Power of Sharing (Picture Book) Stories by Jillian Heise

 

#18: What Millennials Demand from Education by Erik P.M. Vermeulen

#19: Visible Thinking in Math Part 2 by Silvia Tolisano

#20: The Compliments Project by Jennifer Gonzalez

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

An Inquiry into the Senses

There’s a reason that our first lessons on bringing detail into our writing often revolve around the 5 senses. There’s a rich, visceral connection we all make with our senses of touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell.

In this way, this week’s provocation can be a wonderful application for a writing unit, or else perhaps for science concepts such as adaptation, human development, etc.

Resource #1: s e n s e s by Whitelist

Resource #2: Nieta by Nicolás P. Villarreal, via The Kid Should See This

Resource #3: Blind Birdwatcher Sees With Sound by Great Big Story, via The Kid Should See This

Resource #4: Tactile, by Death To Stock

Provocation Questions:

  • How do human senses shape the way we experience the world around us?
  • Why do we need our senses?
  • How does life change without one of our senses? Two? Three?
  • Does everyone use each of their senses in the same way? Why or why not?
  • What is the connection between our senses and details?
  • How does our use of our senses change over time?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

TPT Debate: On Teacher’s Personal Generosity

Earlier this summer, Adam Hill wrote about his views on resources like Teachers Pay Teachers. It was a fascinating discussion, and one I’ve continued to mull over ever since.

One comment that especially stood out to me was from Tonya Kipe:

“I would rather eat the cost just so others could benefit from the resources because most of us already have serious financial obligations to deal with and shouldn’t add work issues to it.”

This is interesting to me, because when you really think about it, the “serious financial obligations” works in both directions — both for the teachers who are trying to obtain resources for their classrooms on minimal budgets, and for the teachers who are trying to make money on TPT because of serious personal financial obligations.

So is it really such a bad thing for teachers to benefit financially from their resources they share?

It’s a complex question that gets really personal for me, so let me share some background…

My first few years of teaching were while my husband was in school. We had an infant. I was commuting through a massive construction zone for over an hour a day, and our evenings together as a family were scant.

When I heard about all the extras that other teachers were purchasing out-of-pocket for their classrooms because their budgets were just too tiny, I felt a bit ashamed. Our little family had only just made it above the poverty line with my new job — our eligibility for WIC (Women, Infants, & Children which provided basics like milk) still hadn’t even expired. There was no way I was going to be able to spend any of my own money on my classroom.

(eventually, I came to realize that my inability to personally supplement my classroom budget was something I neither could nor should worry about. Instead, I endeavored to engage my students in the creative problem-solving process using our existing resources — which certainly had its own merit).

Now, going back to the debate. Had I ventured into TPT to earn some extra money to supplement our supplies, or even our family’s finances, would anyone have accused me of greed?

But of course, I had neither spare money nor time, so that wouldn’t have been a possibility anyway. So, when I instead utilized free resources other teachers had publicly shared, would anyone have accused me of laziness?

I doubt it.

So here’s my take-away from it all. There is a season for everything. Right now, I’m away from the classroom, so I have much more time to fulfill a contributor role, which I love. And when I do return later, I will be in a much better financial position than I was during those first few frenzied years.

Give when you can. Don’t worry when you can’t. And avoid making assumptions and pressuring others. As long as this country habitually underpays and under-budgets teachers and classrooms, understand that no matter how earnestly we all want to help as many students as possible with our ideas, teachers’ personal financial generosity can only go so far.

P.S. As always, whether selling, shopping, sharing, or borrowing, remember to be wary of the resources that “have all the glitz and appearance of learning, but that really promote something…else.” (see An Open Letter: To Pinterest, from a Teacher).

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into When “The Human Need to Calculate Runs into Messy Reality”

As an avid organizer myself, I completely understand the human need to categorize, calculate, and classify. But as a teacher (ie, a laborer among messy human beings), I also completely understand when “the human need to calculate runs into messy reality.” When we act like everything can be neatly sorted and identified — even the content within our curricula — we do our students a major disservice.

Because the truth is, every field still has its frontiers, its disputed claims, its square-pegs-&-round-holes. Inquiring into this concept can help our students think more deeply and with more nuance as they navigate the sometimes rough seas of human wisdom.

Resource #1: What Counts as a Mountain? (via The Kid Should See This)

Resource #2: Icelandic is Untranslatable by New Age Creators

#Resource 3: The Little Prince (the book or the beautiful new movie!)

Provocation Questions: 

  • How has human knowledge changed over time? How does it continue to change?
  • What is our responsibility in understanding the limitations in human knowledge?
  • Why is reality sometimes “messy?”

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

The Power of One Young Digital Citizen–Again

I started off my daily Twitter review yesterday with a post from @Sue_Crowley with several intriguing comments:

and


I decided to check it out. It appears that source of all the hubbub centers on phenomenal new customer service rep managing the Southern Rail UK Twitter account. His name’s Eddie, and he’s a 15 year old receiving some work experience

Not only did he do a fabulous job fielding ordinary customer service questions, but he interacted with customers in a way that definitely caught Twitter’s attention. And young as he is, several interested parties already appear to be trying to poach him for their organizations:

This is definitely one young digital citizen that has his 4 C’s down: communication (fielding hundreds of comments), critical thinking (figuring out helpful responses), creativity (engaging with people in a fun way that got the attention of thousands), and collaboration (working with Neil).

Ultimately, this thread brought me back to reflecting on digital citizenship and literacy yet again. While we know that the jobs of the future will little-resemble the jobs of today, we still often treat the very devices and platforms that will carry our students toward that future — as nuisances. Banning phones, blocking Youtube, insisting on a single way of note-taking.

But here, we have an example of what happens when our students are given authentic opportunities to engage with those devices and platforms and audiences instead.

The fact is, digital citizenship empowers students to amplify their voices for good. Shunning it for fear of the distraction, cyberbullying, etc. perpetuates the very mentality that encourages abuse of these resources: namely, that they are not part of the “real world” and are therefore relegated only for entertainment purposes.

So next time you encounter a blanket ban of a digital resource that seems to favor adult convenience over student ownership, here are a few questions you might ask:

  • How might teaching digital citizenship help students treat the resource with more responsibility?
  • What are alternative courses of action to remove the nuisance factor?
  • How often do you personally treat this resource as an opportunity to create, share, and connect, vs. simple entertainment?
  • How often do you share with your students the ways that you use this resource to create, share, share, and connect?
  • How can you re-envision my students using this resource in a powerful, meaningful way (both now and throughout their lives)? How can you help your students see themselves using the resource in that way?
  • Will this ban help or hinder students in their development of the 4 C’s of 21st century learning?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into Color

Color. Seems like one of the more straight-forward aspects of our world, but lately, I’ve come across several resources to make me wonder. And since that’s what these provocation posts are all about — inviting wonder — I thought it would be fitting to dedicate a post to color.

At first glance, you might think an inquiry into color would only have applications in art, but it is much more rooted in the social and physical sciences than I would have guessed! So take a look and see what might inspire your students to dig into the deeper concepts for their next unit!

Resource #1: The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin & Rosana Faria

How do you explain color to someone who can’t see? A fascinating picture book of raised images to represent the different colors!

via Amazon

Resource #2: “Kids Describe Color to a Blind Person” by WatchCut Video

Speaking of color and blindness, check this video out of kid attempting to explain it to a man who is blind!

Resource #3: Colorscope series from CNN

The Kid Should See This has compiled all the videos into one page here.

Resource #4: The World’s Deadliest Colors by TedEd

Provocation Questions: 

  • How does color work in our society?
  • How have the perspectives on color changed over time?
  • What are reasons humans care about color?
  • How has human fascination with color impacted our world over time?
  • How is color related to perspective?
  • What is the relationship between color and human health?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto