If you would consider taking advice from a long-time kindergarten teacher who appears, in these days,to be a dinosaur, here’ are my thoughts on what to look for in a kindergarten class.
To begin with, I’d like to scratch out all of the suggestions and ideas for getting your child ready for kindergarten. It is better to concentrate on , “How is this school, and this teacher, getting the kindergarten class and program ready for my child?”
So then we have the job of checking to see if the kindergarten is ready for the child. Perhaps begin by thinking of some goals that you might have and then look carefully at how the room is set up and how the day is planned to see if they are aligned with your expectations.
This is a fairly long list. I’d say that it is for a parent’s ongoing assessment of what happens in their child’s kindergarten class over the course of the school year.
I might begin by asking myself if this is a place where my child can develop and build self- esteem. What, in this room, will support this?
Does this teacher value curiosity and divergent thinking? How does the classroom environment reflect these values? Are there many areas in the room that are set up for open-ended explorations, where children can explore personal projects and ideas or do centers have “tasks” that stunt creativity and investigations?
Does the daily schedule place a primary value on indoor and outdoor play, discussions, and singing? Today, most public kindergartens have time for reading, writing, math, and phonics in their programs. However, in the rush to meet standards and to address new curriculums, this most important part of kindergarten often gets either left behind or scaled down inappropriately. I taught the same children for two years, kindergarten and then first grade. We called this “looping” with a class. I could see how well the children did academically in first grade when they had a kindergarten year that was filled with Choice Time, Inquiry projects, lots of books read aloud, interesting group discussions and plenty of singing.
Remember, this is KINDERGARTEN, Kinder meaning children – the children’s garden!
Is this room reflective of the teacher as a facilitator rather than as the major source of direct instructions? Are tables and chairs organized so that children are always facing the teacher or are they incorporated into centers scattered about the classroom?
(Getting a room set up before the schoolyear begins.
Does the classroom library represent a diverse population where all children can find books that speak to their ethnicity, culture and gender identification? Can my child find new books but also wonderful children’s classics. Are the books enticingly displayed and easily accessed by children?
Do you see any signs of inquiry projects that are built upon children’s questions? Is the progression of the project displayed so that the visual documentation focuses on the explorations rather than only on finished projects?
Computers and technology are a reality. However, it’s important that they aren’t used asgames and technological work books. Children can use computers, just as they use books, to figure out problems, to research, to communicate with pen pals from other classes and locations and for a variety of creative activities.
What is the relationship between the teacher and the parent or caregiver? Is it a relationship of mutual support and advocacy? Are parents welcomed into the classroom? How does the teacher communicate with families? Does the teacher ask you to begin the year by writing about your child, your hopes for your child and your child’s special interests and talents?
It seems to me that we are often forgetting that this kindergarten year is not preparation for the next year of school. Kindergarten should be a joyful, intellectually inspiring and excitingly fun-filled year all of its own.
Let’s not rush children out of childhood. It only comes once. Let’s use this kindergarten year to respectfully honor the importance and specialness of childhood. There’s plenty of time for scholars in the future!