Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Let's go to Kindergarten!

What a scary/exciting/fun/awful/new experience kindergarten can be!

That struck me again last night as I listened to a Howard County kindergarten teacher talk about the importance of paraeducators in her life. No, that's not correct. She talked about the importance of paraeducators in kindergarteners' lives.

Because as I noted initially, kindergarten is a crazy time for a child. What do you remember about kindergarten?

I remember that I got to have chocolate milk, which was so much better than the white milk I struggled to finish every night.

I remember nap/quiet time, which was hard for me - trying to fall asleep during daylight was rough.

I remember drawing a house many days and having essentially the same story for that house everyday. I think I may have drawn houses when I couldn't sleep.

I remember that it was only a couple of hours each day.

These are not memories that my daughter will have of kindergarten. My daughter may remember playing math races with teddy bears in kindergarten. She may think of working on her sight words. I can remember, from my volunteering in her classroom, helping kids work on their letters ("No, that's a p, not a d.") while her teacher and paraeducator worked with small groups on reading at their various levels.

I remember thinking, How do they do this when there aren't any parent volunteers? How do four kindergarten teachers manage with only one paraeducator?

How will kindergarten teachers manage with thirty fewer paraeducators next year? Why do they have to? Because we have to finance a Gallup survey? Because we have to outsource legal services at a cost of $1 million over the previous administration?

Kindergarten is not the way it used to be. (I'm leaving out the developmental arguments now - the system exists and will for the foreseeable future.) If kindergarten class sizes increase, which they will under this budget, the impact on these little kids will be felt throughout the elementary school and throughout their progress in the school system.

The ripple effect is just as important, which this teacher noted. She thanked us for focusing on the impact she will sustain but she encouraged us to think about the greater systemic challenges.

Throwing this pebble into the school pond may have 13 years of impact, growing larger and larger. You can never get that pebble back.

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