My Confession Is Also My Credo

Since I am participating in a couple of online community challenges this summer, I thought it would be neat to connect the 2 of them whenever possible. The #Kinderblog13 blogging challenge and the #clmooc on Google+/Twitter/Flickr are both looking for some reflections this week.

As a kindergarten teacher, I am increasingly asked to teach a strong academic program.  I confess that I am at odds with this approach.  The world of exploration and discovery will always be the place of ideal teaching and learning, at least in my mind and heart.

The movers and shakers who are directing education (CCSS and educator evaluation) are forcing teachers to move away from the more natural learning environments and instead pushing us to create and show very specific results every step of the way.

The focus is on demonstrating student learning through assessments. The more time I spend on assessing, recording, graphing, checking off, reporting student learning, the less time I have for creating more meaningful learning opportunities.

It boils down to time.  Time that is in short supply.  Time that ends up being taken away from other aspects of my personal and professional life.

Teachers are being drawn to $$ boxed curricula, at least in part, because they need the ready-made assessments to present the teaching and learning and therefore prove their own mastery of curriculum planning and assessment.  That also means they teach the $$ boxed program to achieve those learning goals prescribed by the assessments.  I am at odds with the strong academics being foisted on early childhood education.

That is my confession.  My credo is always going to be challenged by the market-driven $$ powers that be.  Let’s see if this year marks a change and I find a healthy balance between my own credo and the needs of the evaluators.

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7 Comments

Filed under #clmooc, #Kinderblog13

7 responses to “My Confession Is Also My Credo

  1. Hi, Gail, Your confession and credo is clear. Could you change the need of the evaluators and make your credo come true? How will education change if teachers just do what they are told by academics and politicians and evaluators? Your picture of the stones and water is very nice.

    • Great question Jaap. There are many teachers moving to make changes in education, to take the power out of the hands of business people. I don’t know how they find the extra time. I hope to be successful doing my own thing and demonstrating student learning. Since time is precious, I am sure I will come up short on the reporting end of things. My focus will be on individual student growth and I don’t want to get bogged down with unneccessary formal assessments. Teachers have a pretty good handle on what their students need, especially in early childhood ed. We know which student needs more practice in which area and we organize our time accordingly. unable to trace owner of real image I am sorry to be so cynical, and I recognize it as such, but I think the $$ machine isn’t finished yet. Years from now, it will be abundantly clear that the system is broken without the backbone of good educators calling the shots.

  2. I feel your pain of the PUSH, PUSH PUSH for academics and have seen the changing landscape in Early Childhood education over the years. When I first started teaching Kindergarten in the late 80’s our programs were play-based with minimal emphasis on academics. Then the pendulum began to move towards more and more academics in K. Sometimes the changes have been due to principals who are well-intentioned but misinformed as to what Kindergarten classes should include in terms of programming. Here in Alberta we are beginning to see more of a movement back towards play-based instruction. The Galileo Network which is an arm of the University of Calgary facilitated a number of 3 Day sessions on Play in our Province which was subsidized by our Provincial Education Ministry. I attended one of the sessions and was impressed by the current research which supports play-based instruction for young children. There are a number of excellent links on the Alberta Education website related to brain research and the importance of play.
    http://education.alberta.ca/teachers/aisi/themes/early-learning.aspx

    I know you are an excellent advocate for the needs of your students as I have read many of your posts and Tweets. We (All of us who are Early Childhood Educators) will need to continue to speak out about what is best for the children we work with. We have known for many years that children learn best through play and now there is more and more evidence in the research that supports what Early Childhood Educators have known and done for years.

    I am continuing to explore teaching practices that will support my philosophy of early childhood and want to improve my skills at documenting children’s learning. As far as assessment is concerned, I believe that Ann Davies’ Triangulation of Assessment (A balance of observations, conversation and products) creates a complete picture of learning. As educators we often underestimate our own knowledge that we have gained through our conversations with students and rely heavily on products or checklists. Clearly curriculum for young children needs to align with appropriate practice. Our Alberta Kindergarten Program Statement is an excellent example of this. The guiding principles are in keeping with honouring each child’s social and cultural context. Problems arise from misinterpretation of the document. http://education.alberta.ca/media/312892/kindergarten.pdf

    We are on the same team and there are many, many, many of us like-minded educators. With social media, we have the power to connect and make our voices heard so that we can steer the education of our young students in the right direction.

  3. Very well said. I agree. We will keep trying to provide the best opportunities for our learners:)

  4. Hi Gail,

    I understand how you feel! I must say that when I discuss this topic with people, there is some confusion on both sides: I believe that children learn best thorough play, and there is nothing wrong with using natural, teachable moments to work with children on “academic” concepts. But then people ask, if children are ready, what is wrong with teaching the academics? We are all individuals (and complicated ones at that) and I don’t believe that anything can be standardized and make everyone happy. When you mentioned the money being spent on curriculum, I saw words that I am often thinking and talking about myself. SO MUCH MONEY is spent on curriculum that could be better routed towards other things, but there is no simple answer.

    Thanks for sharing your credo! See you in the #clmooc!

    • Thanks for connecting our learning, Allie.
      Here is another side to my thinking. We know what we are doing. We know that play-based learning is very powerful. We know that the needed resources are minimal when you are providing a constructivist learning environment. We know the children will bring an absolutely incredible abundance of passion for this kind of learning.
      What we need, is for some of the “education experts” to watch it happen, to document the leaps and bounds the students are making as they play and collaborate. We need them to drill down into the thinking that’s going on before their eyes and see how the educators ask important questions so the answers can be explored. There is nothing quite like seeing a child get excited because he has made a connection by search and discovery. They literally beam with joy. And their joy is contagious.
      Not so much fun with the scripted $$ boxed programs.

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