Grading School Isn’t the Answer

Food for Thought:

Grading School Isn’t the Answer.  It’s the Problem. –     11/22/12     

Many articles come across my desk and I thought it might be good to pass along some of the ones I find most interesting.     

This article speaks of the recent history of education in America and mentions policies like RACE TO THE TOP and NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.  How does this concern you?  It’s hard to imagine that this educational policy will affect your young preschooler but in the not so distant future, it will. 

Our current educational system is mired in a culture of testing.  Politicians want to fix failing schools, and the way to measure whether those improvements are working is to test students.  Principals are held accountable so they pressure their teachers to teach to the test.  There is little independent thought in teaching to a test, as the student is given a test so they can to regurgitate the information learned from direct instruction—there is little room for independent thought.

This article is written about a school in faraway Texas, but it could be a school right here in New York City.  What I took away from this article is that even in a failing system, individual educators found a way to reach students by coaching basketball, starting a marching band and telling students they were loved.
“They improved the numbers.  Mostly, they did it through passion, intelligence, grit and love.”

Children need to know that they are cared for. Maybe I would be more willing to embrace testing young children if caring was something that could be measured on a test.

In the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

All of us in the CHP community and on the East Coast have just experienced a natural disaster the likes of which we have never seen before.  Many people in our community, our friends and loved ones still suffer from the hurricane’s devastation. 

I believe that the toughest job in the world is being a parent, and sometimes, parents need a little guidance too.  I thought at this time, it might be best to share something you might find helpful. Here are some suggestions from ExchangeEveryDay, an Early Childhood publication I subscribe to:

"Don’t be afraid to talk about what happened, and be patient with your child’s repetitive questions. Let them take the lead. If your child mentions the subject, listen, talk about it, answer questions, and provide comfort and support.”

“Keep reminding children that you will do everything possible to keep them safe.  Remain calm and reassuring and emphasize safety. Your children do sense how you feel. If they sense that you are upset, disorganized, confused, or anxious, they may avoid talking about the trauma, and that will make their recovery more difficult. Share with children ways you handle things that upset you, e.g., listen to soft music; go for a walk; take slow, deep breaths. Children need physical reassurance that you can provide by sitting close together, offering hugs and smiles, and holding hands."

When the teachers return to school, we will be listening to the children and making sure they feel safe.  We will follow their lead, but will not allow the hurricane to dominate everything we do in the classroom. We will find out what children think and feel and answer questions giving honest answers and using accurate vocabulary.  

I learned a lot after 9/11.  When we reopened the school, the children were so happy to be back—the teachers were the same, their friends were the same and the toys were the same.  They found comfort in that, and so did I. Children and grown-ups feel safe when they follow routines.

I would like to offer our children the opportunity to help families in need.   I would welcome suggestions from the CHP community on this effort.  The best way to contact me would be via email:

CHP will reopen on Monday and in the meantime, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you all.

11/27/12  A student's dictation and drawing about his Hurricane Sandy experience.

Living in America

One of the many things I enjoy about being a part of our preschool community is deciding upon a unit for the upcoming school year. At the end of the 2010/11, Hilary made up a song about robots which caught on like wildfire--so choosing the unit for this year, Machines, Gizmos and Gadgets, was a no-brainer. I always select a subject that is child-centered and open-ended because a unit of study needs to have limitless interdisciplinary possibilities.

In 2004 when I was the head teacher/director of CHP, I decided to hold a Presidential election. Only the students could vote. During the lessons, I read SO YOU WANT TO BE THE PRESIDENT and shared some preschool election material produced by Scholastic. During a snack group I showed the group a Scholastic poster of the presidents and asked, "Who can tell me how many girls were ever the President of the United States?'' The children started to count every founding father wearing a wig! I explained that the wig-wearers were men and that there had never been a woman president. From that moment and throughout the school year, a student named Grace decided that she would be the president. If you are a children's book lover, GRACE FOR PRESIDENT might sound familiar to you as my teaching moment eventually became the part of a children's picture book. Although the "Grace" in the book version is older than my student Grace and most of the book is fiction, the book does begin with a teacher (me) showing that poster of the Presidents. I was given one of the first copies of the book which now sits on the shelf in my office--along with a photo of the "original" Grace.

As you know, 2012 is an election year. We often use the democratic process in the classroom. For example, the children suggested names for our classroom hermit crab pets (Caroline and Leaf), then the democratic process began. We are very democratic at CHP!  Even though our students are too young to vote for the President, they will surely be hearing news and seeing things related to the Presidential election in November.

Our unit for 2012/2013 will be "Living in America." Together, we will share what we know, what we want to know, and eventually what we have learned about living in New York City. How will we learn about the other parts of the US which are quite different from our urban environment? One way we will learn new things is by using "Flat Stanley." Shortly after the year begins, we will begin a project that has been quite successful in the past. We will be making little paper images of ourselves, "Flat Stanley" style! If you travel for work, bring your child's little handmade "flattie" along, photograph it near a landmark and tell us something you find interesting about that place. We just love grandparents, friends and relatives who can teach us something about life in the U.S. too, so start thinking about who you might like your little paper child to visit. Stay tuned. You will get more information about this project shortly after the school year begins.

We will also be learning American folk tales and songs, studying the varied natural environments and creatures indigenous to the U.S. We might invite some visitors, like our beloved FDNY firefighters, community members and even local politicians...the possibilities are endless!

It's going to be a great year!

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