Every year around this time when our academic year is drawing to a close, I stop and reflect on my students. I reflect on their year and what they have learned. I think about what they were like in January and how little they were. I compare it to what they have accomplished during the year and where they are now all the while knowing that I was instrumental in that growth. That knowledge gives me pleasure and I feel like my life has a purpose. I do get a little sad knowing that we have to say goodbye. I tend to go all introspection mode during the last few weeks of school but not today, today I started thinking about all the children I have taught since 1992! All the parents I have met and all of their quirks.
Some were fond memories, some were funny and some were sad. I thought about the ones I really really tried so hard to help (you know the difficult ones) and what a difference it made when the parents were working together with me towards a common goal. And then I thought about teaching, academics and the way we cross over sometimes into being a surrogate parent and vice versa.
Did you know that you can teach a child to read and write from a very young age but they won't be emotionally ready till much later. You see there is so much focus on academics these days (and yes I agree our educational standards are not where they should be in grade school and yes for love of god we need better literacy and numeracy stats) So for context, I am only talking about preschool here.
Parents if there is a problem with your child academically their teacher will inform you! Halfway through the first term of school, alarm bells will go off and we can usually tell if your child needs extra help. So don't worry about the academic side of things in preschool, unless the teacher says you must. Rather (and here is a great concept) how about you parent your child instead and leave the academic teaching to the teachers. I'm not saying don't be interested in your child's education. I love it when parents are involved and want to know about their child's school day. But......
I have had parents placing so much emphasis on rote counting up to 20 (even 100) in perfect sequence because they thought it was an important math skill. Well it's not, unless your child understands the concept of each number fully, he has just learned a nice little poem. Numbers are an abstract concept to little ones and rattling off a bunch of them in an order is not maths, it shows that your child has memory skills. But you know what its okay, you didn't know because you didn't spend 4 years studying early childhood development. So leave the academics to us and concentrate on the real lessons in life. The ones that you need to be teaching your child.
Here they are (in case you have forgotten) Teach your child to:
Share, especially if he is an only child, he may never have had to share his toys at home so it will be very difficult for him to grasp this concept when he goes to school.
Love, not superficially but with his whole heart. You do this by loving him, unconditionally. This will also help him to love himself and build up confidence.
Responsibility, yes even a preschooler can be responsible. Give him a pet to look after, his job could be to feed it and love it. As they get older they can clean out their pet’s living space. Looking after something is a valuable gift you can give your child.
Manners, being polite and social skills. Integrating socially is such an important lesson. Learning to value people and friendships for who they are not how many toys they have. (I know some grownups who still struggle with this concept).
Honesty and trust, never betray your child's trust. It will come back to haunt you when they are teenagers. They see you gossiping about your friends and take note. They see you telling that little white lie and take note. They see you!
Most of all teach them to have fun...... the learning will follow naturally.
Children are always learning, everywhere they go, and they take in everything they see, hear and experience. I love how their minds are like little sponges, soaking up their surroundings. This is one of the reasons I love teaching preschoolers, their inquisitive nature and willingness to learn. I would far rather teach them than teenagers because they already know everything!