Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No, it's real teaching

I had an interesting conversation today in the hallway with a parent. His son is in the Kindergarten class in which I interned in the fall, and the whole family had been a delight to know. I told him the happy news that I am now teaching Pre-Kindergarten just down the hall from his son's class.

His reaction was not what I expected. "Oh," he said, with a look of commiseration on his face, "well, I'm sure it's just a foot in the door, and they'll move you up to Kindergarten soon."

I was pretty stunned. Since then, I have thought of perhaps a dozen or more things I would say, but in the moment I had children to attend to, so I merely said, "No, it's real teaching. It's a good thing."

Now, I know perfectly well that early childhood educators have an image problem. But it still stopped me in my tracks to see his look of disappointment on my behalf. The idea that those who teach preschool are teachers who aren't quite ready for prime time sounds ludicrous to me, but it's a perception that's alive and well out there.

If I had a moment more to talk with him and formulate my thoughts, I would have talked about the crucial importance of the four-year-old year. I would have mentioned neuroplasticity. I would have sited studies on the life-long value of a quality preschool experience. I would have told him that it's not just real teaching, but that it's real learning, too. I would have told him that I'm exactly where I want to be, that I will have a life-time supply of intellectually stimulating challenges in this environment, and that I can well imagine teaching Pre-Kindergarten for the rest of my life.

I'll have my one-minute speech on the value of early childhood education better prepared next time. One parent educated, a few million more to go.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Grades are for Dogs

My eight-year-old daughter is in third grade, and therefore now receives report cards. The first one came home not long ago. She did fine, but it gave me a pang that this form with its boxes and letters was meant to summarize the skills of this joyful, unconventional child and her particular quirky genius. I didn't love the "outstanding" "satisfactory" and "needs improvement" system of last year, but I liked it a lot better than this. I did what parents do: I praised her, and then we brainstormed some ideas she could use to raise a couple of the grades. And then I worried. Because eight seems mighty young to spend precious energy strategizing to raise grades.

I just recently, however, I came across the following in a stack of her drawings, stories, and notes. (By the Way, George is one of our two dachshunds, who we adopted from a rescue society last summer.)

George's Report Card

Sleeping Skills A+
Racquetball skills C-
Talking in class B
Eating the trash A+
Shares his bone B

I shouldn't have worried. If the kid can write a report card for her dog, I think she's got this in perspective.