A Grandparent’s Glimpse
This special guest entry was written by Libby Doggett, a long-time advocate for early childhood education and the executive director of Pre-K Now (the sponsor of Inside Pre-K).
As a "helping parent" in my granddaughter’s pre-kindergarten class, I was recently reminded how important the pre-k experience is in every child's life, even a child as fortunate as Ella.
You might think at first that Ella does not have much to gain from pre-k. She has two well-educated and loving parents, an adoring extended family nearby, and a diverse group of playmates who are introducing her to different languages and cultures. On weekends, I enjoy taking her on "field trips" to community events and the grocery store or just walking the neighborhood and playing with a new box of “old” toys stored in my attic.
Nevertheless, Ella learns things in pre-k she wouldn’t otherwise. On the day I helped in her classroom, these lessons included:
- When Ella held tightly to the three sponges and three dollies in the big tub of soapy water, she found out that the other kids couldn’t use them—but neither could she. I watched her struggle to let go of control, but she finally agreed to share the dollies and sponges, learning that washing the doll with another child could actually be more fun.
- Ella didn’t want to wait her turn to ride the Big Wheel, but she managed to do so with firm urging and a hug from her teacher. Waiting is hard, but it's a fact of life and an important skill to learn early on.
- Ella learned that a toy train track can be assembled a lot faster if three children work on it together.
- And, through the lessons above, Ella learned that other adults care about her and can help her do things.
As I scraped gooey play-dough off the table, floors, and chairs, I kept thinking that helping in the classroom is a wonderful way for families to support and be involved with this important first step of their child’s education.
Ella’s pre-k center requires that parents work in the classroom once a month as the teacher’s aide. Ella’s mom and dad both work and have to adjust their schedules to accommodate this requirement, but the payoff is great. They know the teacher, assistant teacher, all the kids, most of the parents, and the daily schedule – involvement that shows what an integral part of good parenting quality pre-k can be.
Being in the classroom, parents (and grandparents) get a glimpse of their children interacting with other children and adults outside the home. My glimpse showed me that Ella is indeed tall (her dad is 6’7”), and her language skills are quite advanced. But I saw the limitations in her social skills, too.
With this knowledge comes comfort. Now, Ella’s parents, teachers, and I know in what ways she still needs to grow. Through learning at home and in the “real world” of pre-k, Ella will gain those skills, and so will thousands of other children.