Where the Fear of Being Left Behind Left Us
In a critique on Education.com, early educator Traci Geiser has written a detailed description of what an inappropriate classroom looks like, warning parents of high-pressure pre-k environments. She points out the futility of paper and pencil tasks and worksheet driven homework to accelerate learning, and acknowledges the inappropriate amount of time spent expecting children to be quiet and listen to the teacher as a frustration factor. Finally, she addresses how the pressure of kindergarten curriculum pushed down into pre-k classrooms can suck the joy out of learning.
What Traci doesn't do in her article is address why these practices have come about. The answer for me is clear. Fear. Kids today are growing up in a culture of fear that causes parents to expect preschools to produce kindergarten ready children. No parent wants their child to be "left behind" because they aren't ready, so we push out kids to be over-prepared. Here, it is up to the practitioner to educate parents about what developmentally appropriate really means. Check out the blog bakersandastronauts to see the kinds of activities that can be done in a developmentally appropriate classroom. When children play, the work the children do in this class is at a higher level cognitively than any worksheet I have ever seen in a pre-k or kindergarten classroom. Most of all, these students are learning actively, not just completing worksheets that make it look like they are learning.
Image from: http://blog.newsok.com/educationstation/files/2008/06/412007_preschool_class_activities_3.jpg