I saw this as a post on my Facebook feed and felt it was worth sharing. I am still unsure if I agree with all of the points made throughout this letter however, the main message is something I most certainly support. Children need to learn more than we are teaching them! Honesty, perseverance, courage and communication are vital to surviving just as much as being able to sing the ABC’s.
Although this letter was presented to a Kindergarten teacher, I believe the messages presented can resonate all the way up through High School education techniques. Straying away from the worksheets, flash cards and structure and veering toward a more flexible, realistic classroom style can benefit a child in more ways than we may think. Why not focus less on preparation for STAR testing and gear lessons toward preparation for LIFE instead!?
Read the letter below found on Medium.com for the perspective of one Kindergarten parent on this topic 🙂
Greetings and Salutations!
We haven’t met yet, but we will meet soon. I need to apologize in advance because I am going to be one of “those” parents. You know, the ones who are constantly checking in, perhaps over protective to a fault.
In my defense I feel like I know a bit more about this whole school thing than most parents. Having taught kids in the same city where I grew up and now teaching teachers (who, in many ways, are just bigger kids) in a city far away from home, I have learned a good deal about what goes on in classrooms nowadays.
There is also the matter of me teaching university courses that deal with educational policy (yuk!) and educational psychology (wow!). Did you know that most of our current educational policy flies in the face of educational psychology, especially in light of recent advances in neuroscience?
That’s really why I am writing you today. I realize you have to make sure that my son should be able to “Write numbers from 0 to 20. Represent a number of objects with a written numeral 0-20 (with 0 representing a count of no objects),” as required by the state and federal government.
Based on what I’ve learned over the past 18 years in the field, I have to tell you, I don’t care if he walks out of your room at the end of the year and he can’t write numbers up to 20. He will pick that skill up as his life requires it.
It concerns me a bit that you are going to require him to “With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.”
Turns out that there are a lot of developmental changes going on in a 5 year old’s head. Maybe these countries that take a slower approach are onto something. I know Finland blows us out of the water on test scores. I also know there is a lot more to that fact than I can get to here.
I’d prefer that you skip tests all together and let him hang out in one of your learning centers. In fact, I’m looking into the legality of me opting him out of high-stakes, standardized tests for the entire time he’s in the system. I want to argue that the 4th Amendment protects us from unreasonable search and seizure. A testing schedule of 40 days is, arguably, unreasonable.
We did build a robot out of a giant box that he still plays with, and our living room has pretty much become Lego land, defended by an army of square and rectangle soldiers that know exactly where to attack your bare feet. We also spent a good amount of time outside swimming and running and just generally goofing off, but we didn’t get to the sight words.
It turns out that there is research for and against having kids memorize random bits of information without some sort of context to house those bits in. I fall into the camp that believes kids should be engaged in authentic, challenging tasks that will, as age permits, require the use of numbers to, for example, build a fort (my son is an expert) and then determine which words best describe it. He’s been making up some funny ones lately, but alas, none of them are on the sight words list.
I’d like him to end the year a little kinder, a little more courageous, and a little more compassionate. He’s doing great now, but I know what type of competitive environment he’s headed into, and I know what that can do to people. There’s no need for him to come home crying because he can’t read as fast as the kid next to him.
It would also be incredible if, in the course of all that competition, he learns perseverance, impulse control, resiliency, and how to think about thinking. I believe these skills and capacities will get him far in life, regardless of how good he is at trigonometry later.
Right now he’s a learning machine. He wants, terribly, to understand how things work and he’s quite eager to learn to read. Preserving this drive in the face of what must be tremendous pressure on you, I fear, is going to be a challenge.
What I can offer is my help. If you don’t have learning centers, I can muster up some resources to have them built for you. If you need bricks for counting, glitter for painting, or boxes for building, please don’t hesitate to ask. I am in a position to be able to gather such things, and it is just as important that his classmates have the same opportunities as him, that they leave wanting to learn more and then some. Because if they don’t, we risk a world full of people who aren’t that imaginative or creative.
I think we can change the world’s trajectory by raising inquisitive beings, and the place to start is in your classroom. Please let me know what I can do to support you this year. If I am around too much, am too eager to help, know that I am just making sure that my boy, and the boys and girls around him, are getting the best education they can…where education means love of learning, not memorizing disassociated facts.