Pedagogy, Professionalism, Programming

Embracing the Now!

I have many pet peeves. Anyone who knows me well knows that there a lots of things that drive me crazy – things not being put back where they belong, crumbs in the butter, that kind of thing! But there is a phrase that I have heard too many times in my Early Childhood career and it really drives me bonkers… “they need to learn to do that, they will have to do it next year at school” 

Now this phrase (or variants of it) is often used when discussing things such as:
  • Sitting for group time
  • Lining up
  • Putting their hand up to talk
  • Sitting on the floor with legs crossed


What frustrates me about this is that these, while being perfectly possible for some children, are really unrealistic expectations for many four year olds. As educators we know that many four year olds love to run, jump, climb, twirl, skip, bounce and just generally be active, yet there seems to be a lingering expectation that when we say “It’s group time”, these active children will be able to just shelve that need to move and suddenly sit still for up to half an hour! 

A recent discussion with a passionate EC professional highlighted this issue for me once again and she made a really valid point – we don’t say “hey they are in year four, but we better make them do year 5 work so that they are used to it for next year”  

Yes, it is important for children to feel “ready” for school… but maybe the schools need to play a part in this too and be ready for these children – as they are! The downward push of assessing and formal, structured learning is disappointing and frustrating. From an early age, learning is becoming more about sitting and listening, sitting and writing, sitting and reading. What happened to doing? What happened to learning by using our senses? Howard Gardner identified the different types of learning styles and I feel that in many ways, we in Early Childhood have become great at adapting our approach and environment to accommodate these. Yet unfortunately in many (not all – I know there are some great one’s out there!!) four year old/preschool rooms, these seem to get thrown out the window as we madly try to prepare the children for school. School readiness is a sore point with me (and a whole other blog post!) so I won’t delve to deeply into it, but I really think that as educators we need to advocate for change in the Early Years of school. We need to defend children’s rights to be active, to learn through play and to just simply be kids! 

The first step in that is to stop saying “they need to learn to do that, they will have to do it next year at school” Instead, let’s embrace the now! Let’s focus on the children we have in front of us, not the children that will be completely different people in 6 months or 12 months. And who’s to say that the child who is wriggling and rolling and playing with their shoelaces isn’t listening and isn’t learning? Surely disrupting the whole group to ask them to sit still 14 times during the story is not going to benefit them or the other children? We can get so caught up in trying to prepare children for the next step, that we forget to just slow down and appreciate what they can do, what they know and who they are right now. 


Embrace the now!

5 Comments

  • Evelyn Davis

    Reply

    your article reminded me of a fairly conservative head teacher at a centre in auckland, new Zealand, who rather blew my socks off when she responded to a father’s oft-repeated request as to whether they were preparing his child for school by asking, “Well, are you getting ready for death?”. It is the same point you are making, as he may well have replied, ‘No, i am busy living now’. i don’t think he did though!
    I have written here maybe facebook is where i should be writing this.
    By the way, maybe you would like to visit my new facebook site called ‘Storytelling Threads’, which is about storymats and storytelling. i am new on the block but absorbed by my discovery that this is a real passion of mine. !

    June 9, 2014 at 5:23 am
  • Scott

    Reply

    Yes! The phrase I hear is a variation: “They’ll need this later.” Maybe not even next year but later down the road in life. If they need it later, let’s teach them to do it then–later. Let’s let them do what they need to do now. For who they are now. And expect nothing more or less than that.

    June 18, 2014 at 7:22 pm
  • Bonnie

    Reply

    This post hits home. I am a mum to a 4 and 1 year old, as well as a paediatric occupational therapist. My life is all too often consumed with anxiety, developmental norms, mummy guilt, and the constant “what’s next”.
    I have been looking into schooling options and am concerned with the transition from our beautiful, community, play-based, child led daycare to kindergarten. I think I saw a Facebook post/conversation on your page about this transition. I wish I could find a local school that embraced play, the outdoors, my child’s NEED for out door play and lengthy stings of climbing, swinging and even crashing.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/07/08/why-so-many-kids-cant-sit-still-in-school-today/

    July 11, 2014 at 1:48 pm
  • Nancy Gaumer

    Reply

    Bernard Spodek, former president of NAEYC and my grad school advisor at the University of Illinois, called this kind of thing “education for the afterlife”. Perfect.

    September 19, 2014 at 5:27 pm
  • Evelyn Davis

    Reply

    your article reminded me of a fairly conservative head teacher at a centre in auckland, new Zealand, who rather blew my socks off when she responded to a father’s oft-repeated request as to whether they were preparing his child for school by asking, “Well, are you getting ready for death?”. It is the same point you are making, as he may well have replied, ‘No, i am busy living now’. i don’t think he did though!
    I have written here maybe facebook is where i should be writing this.
    By the way, maybe you would like to visit my new facebook site called ‘Storytelling Threads’, which is about storymats and storytelling. i am new on the block but absorbed by my discovery that this is a real passion of mine. !

    June 9, 2014 at 5:23 am

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