Kindergarten is not what it used to be. It traditionally was a place with time for inquiry, discovery, creativity, invention, innovation, imagination and wonder. With the shifts in thinking, it has become in some jurisdictions an environment subjected to the perils of standardization, conformity and primarily cognitive-focused learning. If full-day kindergarten is ever to truly be a success story, it must return to its roots and core values.
Kindergarten is the modern world's dunk tank into cold, hard reality. One day, you're sleeping 'til you're done, eating a lazy breakfast, and getting dressed when the mood strikes. The next day you're ripping yourself out of bed, being blinded by the rise of curtains and shovelling down food in an attempt to provide sustenance before the bell rings.
Research in pedagogy shows that children learn much better in smaller classrooms. Tim Hudak, if elected, has promised to increase classroom sizes and the student-teacher ratios. The Ontario elections could very well be a vote on the learning outcomes for millions of school-going children. Tim Hudak, the leader of the Ontario's Progressive Conservatives, is campaigning to increase the classroom size by two to three students and the student-teacher ratio, in addition to numerous other proposed cuts to the Ontario's education system. This may require parents to learn more about learning before they vote on June 12.
Having been held hostage by the whims of the cutest sort of five-year-old juvenile delinquents and lived to tell the tale, I have given some thought to the unlimited number of things I was not taught in teacher training, so as to prepare me for these uncertain days in which I find myself now: as a real teacher.
We are fooling ourselves if we think that full-day kindergarten is anything more than a glorified babysitting service. A four- or five-year-old child may benefit from a few hours of schooling each day, but six hours straight? Is this really for the benefit of the child, or the parents and well-paid teaching staff?
To teach is to forever be a part of something bigger. Is to forever be a piece of that sacred puzzle which creates something profound from that which is very small. That is the beauty of the life of a child. To teach is to touch lives. To listen. To lift. To motivate. To compel. To inspire. To encourage. To enrich. And above all, to teach is to use one's life to make a difference.
If anyone had told me three years ago I would be teaching kindergarten, I would have politely laughed at them. If anyone had told me one of my students would be my charming daughter, I would have (politely) laughed at them and then high-tailed it for the next bus out of town. The truth is, I love it.
It's August, so inevitably just about everything, at every turn, is back to school-related. But some of us aren't sending our kids back to school -- we're sending them off to school for the first time. My first-born -- my baby boy who's actually four-years-old and no longer resembles a baby in any way except in my mind -- starts junior kindergarten in less than a month. We are so not ready.