« Inclusion | Main | Tricks from Across the Hall »

December 28, 2007

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.

Ella and I spend a day in pre-kAs 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.

Comments

Hi Libby,
The importance of parental involvement in the classroom and its effects on the children, parents, grandparents, and classroom is one of the many benefits of preschool that is hard to quantify. Its benefit is obvious to everyone involved but it is still so hard to explain to those in a position to make policy decisions.

Your post eloquently made plain the benefits for you, Ella, her parents, and her teachers. I think you brought up some great points for more discussion.

* 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.

Watching your child (or grandchild) struggle is the hardest part of volunteering. How do teachers support this situation? How do teachers decide when to hold back and when to help a child or a parent?

* 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.

That wonderful skill that most PK teachers have is the ability to show firmness and caring to children.

* Ella learned that a toy train track can be assembled a lot faster if three children work on it together.

This reminded me of the recently published Virginia's Milestones For Early Childhood Development. My favorite part of this document is the approaches to learning aspect of the milestones. The ways of learning discussed in the document include: Persistence, Curiosity and Initiative, Creativity & Inventiveness, Reasoning & Problem Solving.

I see the importance of these abilities to preschoolers as well as adults but, they aren't necessarily valued in policy discussions. As I often say, maybe the goal of preschool shouldn't just be to get children ready for school but also to show how schools can be more ready for children. Quality preschools model developmentally appropriate practices and attention to important aspects of childhood that are not addressed later in a child's school career.

Best wishes and happy new year.
ps Here is a link to the Virginia Milestones: http://snipurl.com/1vzze

as a teacher of 34 4-year-olds in split-session, public-school vpk (18 in the morning, and 16 in the afternoon), i see daily improvement in those skills that are "hard to quantify", such as sharing, taking-turns, problem-solving, and the understanding that school is a safe and important place to be. it is my great reward to know that i have helped a child become an interested and engaged learner. i agree that the preK model of hands-on, developmentally-based, constructivist delivery of education would benefit all learners at every age and stage.

The comments to this entry are closed.

.

Inside Pre-K

.

Current Author

John
John
Send me e-mail
I teach pre-k at a Head Start in Virginia. more...

Past Authors

Jennifer
Vanessa
Karissa
Sophia "Good Morning Children"

Recent Comments

Pre-K Now News

Visit Pre-K Now
Pre-K Now is a public education and advocacy organization that advances high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds. Visit Pre-K Now >
.

Kids Quotes

Post a Kids Quote>>

Friends

BoardBuzz

Lead From The Start

Early Stories

Pre-K Vermont

The Early Ed Watch Blog

Urban Preschool

Links

Enchanted Learning

National Association for the Education of Young Children

Pre-K Now

Reading Is Fundamental

Scholastic

Teach for America

Teaching Our Youngest

The Perpetual Preschool

.
About Pre-K Now National Events Calendar 
© 2005-2008 Pre-K Now