Topics in Early Childhood Education

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Early Childhood Standards

I am currently working on a committee for my state to see how closely our preschool standards are aligned in preparing children for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for kindergarten. It is always delightful to work with a group that is in tune with what is developmentally appropriate for early childhood children. A number of times during our meetings we have come to the conclusion that it is most appropriate for a certain skill to begin in kindergarten, not preschool. It has also been a pleasant discovery to find that our state preschool standards are providing adequate preparation for most kindergarten skills that are in the CCSS.

While serving on this committee, I have expressed my desire that we provide a usable document that an early childhood teacher can use "at a glance" to prepare her lesson plans. Sometimes we create large documents that many teachers do not take the time to read completely or we use terminology that is not always easy to understand. While I think it is critical for us to create a solid complete document, I also think it is important to have a simpler road map for teachers to use on a daily basis. Unfortunately, teachers don't always have access to complete professional development to help them 'decipher the code' of a government document. Hence, my request that we make a document usable for the masses. We must do that if we want the standards taught regularly in the classroom.


Friday, May 13, 2011

A New Beginning

I just watched 23 of my student teachers graduate last week. Now they are actively interviewing for jobs as the local school districts are slowly posting their openings. Five of these soon-to-be new first year teachers already have a job. I was thinking recently about my first year of teaching back in 197... I always tell my students that everything I learned in college about teaching I did the first week. Subsequently, everything I said I would never say to children I had said by the end of the second week out of desperation. Then, I had to learn to be a teacher.

The teacher preparation programs are so much better now. I like how my students spend almost an entire school year in a classroom. They get to see, participate in and create procedures and curriculum from the beginning of the school year until almost the end. At the same time, they learn and plan classroom strategies in college courses and then return with that information to the classroom. This scenario worked well for my wonderful cohort group this year. There were several who actually surpassed their site teachers ability to create an even more efficient classroom.

Yes, times have changed. Teacher preparation programs are much better now. The breakdown in the system now comes when a new teacher does not receive the strong support necessary to continue the growth she started as a student. Even the best new teacher needs continual support and advice to be successful. I am hoping that each new teacher leaving my program will receive that support. I feel much like a parent sending my child out into the world. I hope each one will become the successful teacher I can see inside her/him today.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Counting the Laps

I was brainstorming with one of my former student teachers about a child she is working with who exhibits violent behavior when everything doesn't go smoothly in class. During the conversation I was reminded of a student I taught a number of years ago. He had been the 'terror of the school' prior to coming into my 2nd grade class. I was baffled how a K-1 student could cause such problems in a school setting.
Jimmy had a violent temper and when angry he would hit anyone in his path, including adults. He was a little leery about me at the beginning (his first male teacher), but soon settled into his usual routine. Since he was so physical, I decided to capitalize on that energy. Our classroom was near an outside door that led to a large playground. I made a deal with Jimmy and told him that he could have some fresh air time if he ever felt angry and wanted to hit something. I told him that from that point on I wanted him to excuse himself, go outside and run to the fence and back until he calmed down and felt like he could re-enter the room. I made sure he knew this wasn't a punishment, but an opportunity to calm down. For this particular child, it worked and by December he could calm down by putting his head on his desk.
In the meantime, I found out a little more background about Jimmy and found there were violent episodes in his home. It makes sense that children who observe violence may react in the same way. With the social worker also involved in teaching Jimmy coping skills, he lost the title of 'terror of the school' and became a successful student.
Talking with my student teacher reminded me of the steps that I go through when working with a 'challenging' child:
1. Work on building a positive relationship with the child.
2. Try to find out the root of the problems.
3. If necessary, replace physical aggression with physical exertion.
4. Keep working on the problem. It may take 20 different procedures to find one that works for that child. Don't be cynical, be systematic.