My friends over at Kinderchat have started their summer blog challenge. This is the topic for week 1: Write the post that has been in your head (or your drafts folder) for a while now. You know the one. The one you write while you drive to work, or while you are in the shower. What is the question, or issue, or opinion, or emotions, you have been chewing on for a while now? Alternatively, what is the post that you have started a million times, picked away at, edited and re-edited, and almost trashed? Did you read an article or a Facebook post that provoked a reaction, and that you can’t stop thinking about?
For me – the post I am always thinking about, yet have difficulty putting into words that aren’t overshadowed by my loud stomps up on the soapbox, is DAP: Developmentally Appropriate Practice. My teaching career has seen 3 shifts in standards in eight years. When I began teaching in Georgia in 2005, the standards used were called QCC’s – Quality Core Curriculum. A couple years later, the QCC’s transitioned into the GPS – Georgia Performance Standards. And then came Common Core.
My questions regarding DAP and standards did not really begin to arise until I moved from fifth grade to first grade. I was reading standards that were laughable to me. Standards that expected six and seven year olds to be able to explain the historical significance of and positive character traits demonstrated by Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and a few others deemed important for that grade level. Combine this with the expectation that students be able to name all seven continents and UNDERSTAND that they live in a city, state, country, continent… Well this left me reeling. What knowledge of child development do standards writers have? Do they not understand that children of this age are still egocentric? To understand that someone has the same name can blow their minds. And we want them to understand a world that is not tangible to them just yet? I believe in global education. I believe in students learning about places far away, people from those places, how we are similar and how we are different. I do believe in global community.
Don’t get me wrong – I fully support there being some sort of “standard” for grade levels. Goals that we want to reach. Content that is important for children to learn at a particular time. What I take issue with are standards that are completely inappropriate for students developmentally. So much of what is taught in the first few years of school is social. That is why there is a poster you can buy about everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten. When I see students struggling with social cues or how to “do” school – the last thing I want to do is force an academic standard on them that they aren’t ready for.
Coming into my third year teaching kindergarten, this issue feels more important than ever. If you google kindergarten news stories, several different opinions pop up. Huffington Post has pages upon pages of stories about kindergarten success and concerns for early childhood practice.
My main concern is for the children I teach. I teach CHILDREN. Yes, I am a kindergarten teacher, but I teach CHILDREN. Yes, I am expected to teach the common core standards for my grade level, but I teach CHILDREN. At the end of the day, I find the responsibility of being a child’s first teacher – showing them how to get along with others, guiding them as they explore and learn things at their own pace, providing a safe environment where a love of school is grown – to be the most daunting. Yes, I want them to learn how to read. Yes, I want them to learn how to count and use numbers. Yes, I want them to learn about history and science. But more importantly, I want them to LOVE doing those things. I teach CHILDREN. Children are people too. The foundation of my teaching philosophy is that a child will know I love him and see him as a person first. With that knowledge comes a connection. And with that connection comes learning. Standards or no standards.
[Off my soapbox now]