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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Tank of THINK

I've been in this, what feels like a tank of "think," for over two weeks now. I realize I am always thinking and processing, reflecting all those things. This is different though. It's like I can't turn it off. Writing it down doesn't even help, it looms, it weaves its way right back in, maybe even stronger. I'm usually pretty good at turning things off and detaching from my thoughts, a good and bad trait. These are strong though and on top of it people have questions about them. Which now has me even deeper inside myself processing my opinions and ideas. See, I'm in the planning stages of working on some posts about preschool writing, a topic I haven't written about a whole lot. I've done much more work writing about kindergarten and though the two are fairly similar to most people, I realize they are different animals altogether. Preschool is not a watered down version of kindergarten. It is something set apart and different from every other grade level. Unless you have walked into a preschool classroom recently (or ever frankly) you might not realize how different. What bothers me even more is there is a push, a heavy push, to make it more academic...I should say this differently. The problem with more academic is that it already is academic. Play is the work of preschoolers. There is a lot that can be intentionally woven in that looks more academic to someone that doesn't understand. Preschool teachers are geniuses when it comes to making play intentional, but we don't trust them. It scares me what may become of preschoolers and their foundations. How are we to create students who love learning if we start putting flash cards in their face to make words? (To be clear, flash cards are not the enemy, but they are not the answer either). How do we encourage a love of writing if we are pushing students into letter formation and getting a letter on the page before it carries meaning? Why not create meaning through talking, drawing, playing, experimenting, failing, struggling and coming around to success? Why don't we recognize these struggles and failures as learning? We only see it as "not good enough." I hope if you know a preschool teacher you will direct them to my posts in February at TWT. Mostly because I want to inspire them to stay strong and not give up on what they know is right. I want to give them a resource to ideas and developmental practices that create budding writers, not children who robotically put letters on paper to please the teacher's critics. Ah, that felt good, thanks for listening. Now off to work on this more as I organize my ideas and prepare for teaching some preschoolers to love words and writing. And here I didn't think I had a slice yet today. This one has become a whole bunch of segments ready to be peeled and separated! :)  

12 comments:

  1. This is bothersome and I have this feeling in 5th grade at times. While I know students can do a lot and at very young ages, where is the balance? The preschool teachers I have known over the years are quite amazing people who do find the fun and teach a lot about how to be with another person. This is so important. Frankly isn't that important at all grades. Thanks for your thoughtful post. I'll be sure to pass it on.

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  2. I'll look forward to the posts, Betsy, & hope you can convince those pre-school teachers to hold fast to their beliefs. It's like the stories I'm hearing that kindergartens are cutting back on recess-argh-what are we doing to our kids! Thanks for you thinking, thinking...

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  3. I think what struck me most is your line about "creating meaning through talking, drawing, playing, failing, struggling..." Even in middle school I see too much emphasis on skills divorced from meaning and enjoyment. At all levels, especially preschool, we need to keep our focus on the meaning and enjoyment. The skills will come as they are woven in, but the skills are not the end game. I'm still bothered by a statement from our curriculum coordinator who was horrified when I said my job was to teach students to be better readers and writers. She corrected me that my job was to teach standards. I look forward to reading your posts!

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  4. Why do policy wonks not understand basic child development? Learning is about laying foundations and building skills more like a pyramid -- with a solid base. "Powers that be" are turning learning into Jenga towers halfway through the game. Hope you can show that with your committee. Kids deserve more than cavers.

    Kay-- horrified is a good word choice. Our curriculum director is like that too. :-P

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  5. Betsy, I loved listening into your thoughts about preschool and writing -- as this is my life at home right now. I agree with all your points and look forward to your TWT posts next month.

    Ruth once wrote about the importance of writing what's "on my mind" to make space for more thinking and writing! Remember her post: http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/on-my-mind/

    Hope this helps you in your process of writing, Betsy!

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    1. Thank you for that! I even commented on it. I went back to read and a list sounds like a good idea.

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  6. I think we feel this at every stage of school these days. Everything seems so compressed, and stressed. I'm glad that you took the time to share this today, Betsy - many of us say, "well said!".

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  7. Betsy,
    What you have to say is so important. I felt like I could write the same thing about elementary school. There is so much push for more rigor and academics that I often wonder if the policy makers forget we are working with children, not numbers. In fact, I believe that many educators would agree with you, regardless of the grade they teach. I'm glad you wrote these words. They need to be repeated again and again. I look forward to reading your posts.

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  8. Reading your post made me feel that I was in your head. I like that you let your passionate words just flow to the page. I look forward to reading your pre-school posts.

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  9. I almost could not read your post. I did not want to read it. I stopped at "preschool writing". NOOOO!!! I was sad when they brought everything first grade to kindergarten. No more delighted looks of discovering reading for the 6 year olds. They are tired and think they can't do it. Defeated by 6. Chewing on shirts, sucking thumbs, twisting hair, putting shoelaces in mouths... the tension these administrators are forcing on our young ones - thinking if they just do academics earlier they will be better at reading and writing. At birth why don't we just strap a pencil into their hands - using the correct grip, please, because by first grade they've held a pencil and written so much that the atrocious grip is unrelenting. I did read the rest though. Thankfully. It just upsets me so much that I can not be quiet. I've watched this happening over the years. I began teaching at a time when first graders mostly didn't know all their letters yet, but they learned them in no time, and they could read on grade level by the end of the year. The policy makers do not trust the teachers to know their students any more. And it is killing the kids' love of learning. And you can't revive something that is dead. This makes me so sad.

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  10. "Defeated by 6. Chewing on shirts, sucking thumbs, twisting hair, putting shoelaces in mouths" - I think Donna nailed it with this line. This is the whole problem isn't it? Everything you spoke of, quite eloquently I might add, boils down to this: what is it doing to our children? I know there are kids who are ready and willing and asking for knowledge about reading and writing and everything else as a preschooler. I know there are children who can read and write large amounts of text as kindergarten students. But I ask this: why should they be required to? Just because a child can do something doesn't mean they should have to. We are talking about children who are 48-60 months old. What impact does this academic push have on our babies except to push them into the shirt-chewing, thumb-sucking and hair-twisting tense and anxious selves.

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  11. What a wonderful time to be thinking deeply about preK. Lots of people are in your boat. Let's see what happens in NYC!!!!!

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