As Danielle and I travel the province talking with ECE’s, parents, teachers, child care consultants and administrators they tell us how they are expected to ‘prepare’ children for academic success. They are told they must teach 3 year olds how to write their name, 4 year olds how to count to 100, and 5 year olds how to read. They tell us of children being labelled as behaviour problems and removed from kindergarten because they can’t sit for long periods of time and do ‘work’. We hear of kindergarten prep classes in preschools that teach letters and numbers and science. We are told of 3 and 4 year olds being referred for extra support, and the support workers being required to teach academic skills. We hear the frustration and the sadness in their voices.
These educators feel they are working against what they believe. They want to spend time with children investigating, exploring and listening. They value play, they value taking on a role of co-learner alongside children, delving into the questions children bring. They want to step back and observe, to find out what children know and to expand their thinking together. But they can’t. These educators feel powerless. They feel alone.
But here’s the thing: they are not alone. When Danielle and I begin a dialogue on values and reflective practice, Bang! a story will emerge. And as soon as one person opens up, a second person will tell another story. Soon the entire group is engaged, sharing their frustration.
When we begin to speak out, we find we are not alone.
So here comes the rant part (in case the rest of this wasn’t rant-ish enough!)
WE MUST BEGIN TO SPEAK OUT. We must begin conversations, we must begin to articulate our values and beliefs. We must begin to push back against ‘the pressure’.
We must begin conversations with anyone who will listen, and especially those who won’t. We must find allies and speak out together. We must tell our colleagues, our administrators, our families that children do not need to be prepared for school. School should be prepared for children.
We must tell everyone that children are strong, capable, and full of ideas and theories. Our job is not to provide all the questions and all the answers, our job is to “think with” children and find out what questions they have.
WE MUST BEGIN NOW. The 3 year old who can’t sit still and cut with scissors will thank you. The anxious parent who’s 4 year old can’t read her name will thank you. And the educators who are daily working with the impossible stress of ‘conforming’ will thank you.
And if you can’t figure out how to begin the conversation quote this:
“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” ? Ken Robinson
“(The educator) needs to be attentive to ‘creating possibilities rather than pursuing predefined goals’, assuming ‘responsibility to choose, experiment, discuss, reflect and change, focusing on the organisation of opportunities rather than the anxiety of pursuing outcomes, and maintaining in her work the pleasure of amazement and wonder.” Peter Moss
The pleasure of amazement and wonder……now that’s worth ranting about.