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Kindergarten teacher shares horrors with Susan Ohanian... I teach kindergarten and I hate what I'm doing in my classroom

I teach kindergarten and I hate what I am doing in my classroom

Ohanian Comment: I received this e-mail in response to my outrage — and grief — at New Books for Kindergarten Students starring Terry Abbott and Jon Scieszka.

She is anonymous because teachers have lost their identity as well as their professionalism — and there is no national group fighting to help them regain either. After all, the lobbyist and leaders and camp followers at NCTE insist that "systematic, direct, and explicit" as employed in the LEARN (sic) legislation they helped draft don't really mean what they mean when employed by, say, the giant publisher McGraw-Hill/SRA.

Since our corporate politicos, our unions, and our professional organizations are busy Sitting at The Table and drafting legislation like LEARN (sic) and the Common Core Standards — so busy they don't hear the cries of teachers or children — I make this offer: If you have advice for a kindergarten teacher who hates what she's doing, send it to me, and I'll pass it on and/or post it on this website.

E-mail address: susano@gmavt.net

It occurs to me that we could have a Dr. Phil-type show, where teachers confess how they are hurting kids and then the Expert gives advice and sends them for Rehab. But where's the Rehab when a teacher is good at what she does and loves doing it (when she's allowed to)?

Here are a few recent items on related topics:

New Books for Kindergarten Students

Studying Young Minds and How to Teach Them

Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School [pdf file]

Parent Permission Slip for the 21st Century

I teach kindergarten and I hate what I'm doing in my classroom

by a Kindergarten Teacher

I teach kindergarten and I hate what I am doing in my classroom.

Our day is on a schedule that must be kept: 90 minutes of reading, 75 minutes of math, and 75 minutes of science. We have 20 minutes scheduled for writing and 20 minutes for social studies, but I rarely get to those two subject areas because our reading time takes up the whole morning. We are using a guided reading with rotating centers.

Our school day is 9-3:45. Our snack time is 15 minutes long in the afternoon. The 15 minutes that we use for snack is actually part of our science time. We use FOSS (Full Option Science System) for science.

Every minute of the day is to be used for academics. One day we were coloring and cutting out some animal faces to attach to headbands so that the next day in math we would solve equations by using the animals as part of the equation (math with a bit of drama) by telling a story. The Assistant Principal asked me why I was wasting academic time to color and cut. "Why don't you do this (cut and color) during some other time?"

I asked when she would like me to do this and she suggested during a reading center but she quickly retracted that suggestion. She then suggested that we do this during snack time.

Snack time! All 15 minutes of it. I could not believe I was actually having this conversation. I am so totally shocked and at the same time saddened by what we are doing to our young children. I am retiring at the end of this next year because I can no longer do this. I love teaching and I am good at what I do, no matter what grade level I might be teaching. I am stifled by all of the programs we must implement, by our collaborate learning communities (where we plan what objectives will be taught on what day). We are told that we can teach the objective any way we want to but then when administrators walk into each of our classrooms they want to know why we are not all doing the same things.

I love a challenge and the challenge for me has always been how to teach the objective in the most relevant, meaningful, fun (the new "F" word), motivating way I could. I am no longer challenged. I was the teacher who thought outside the box and now I am stuck in the box, screaming to get out! I don't know how to change things.

We even had a meeting one day to plan our math for the rest of the year and we got into this heated discussion about our kids having recess. The instructional coach stated that instead of taking a recess we could have the kids count and do 10 jumping jacks or hop 10 times while counting so that we continue the academics. We agreed to disagree when the AP walked in and we asked her if we could take a recess. She went and spoke with the principal, returned, and informed us that we could take a recess but only 10 minutes. That 10 minutes is to include lining up to go out and returning to the classroom and should any of us abuse it, even by a minute, we would lose the privilege of recess. Ridiculous. Please know that I am certainly going to print the report Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School [pdf file], and give it to both my principal and my assistant.

I read somewhere that research showed that when we push kids to read too early they lose their enthusiasm and interest in reading in their later years of school (4th grade or so). I have such a great group of kinder kids and I love them but I can't help but wonder if I am hurting them. We test continuously. We have DRA'ed them twice already, DIBELed them twice, and given them 3 math assessments. We analyze the results to improve instruction. OMG, I am sickened by all of this. My principal insisted that I give them a grade in each subject area every week. I informed him that I do not test my kids (paper and pencil) every week and he asked, "Why not?"

I could go on and on but I won't. Thanks for acknowledging my anger, my fear and my disgust with education today. I would be honored if you shared this info.

— Kindergarten Teacher

e-mail

2009-12-29



Comments:

January 2, 2010 at 11:35 AM

By: Got Out Too

Sounds Familiar

The first time I read this I really thought it must be a teacher at my school disguising her identity. Sadly, these poor education ideas and bad teaching strategies are spreading across the country like wildfire. It is happening because it is the easiest solution for the managers that run our school systems and individual schools: write an action plan that ignores the fact that little human beings are the center of the plan and never analyze the results honestly.

It will take time for the pendulum to stop its crazy swing to the insane side of logic. Those in charge are perfectly capable of finding out right now that none of these data-driven idiocies are working, but then they'd have to address a reality that includes lack of responsibility of students and parents and lack of challenge in the American culture. They could not just rely on blaming teachers.

Kindergarten kids need to develop socially using the time-honored methods that worked for generations of American students. Ever wonder why students are so poorly behaved as they advance through the grades? They need to play and learn how to be part of a group as long as we are going to have classrooms of students and not one-on-one teaching. Ever wonder why students can’t write legibly as they advance through the grades? They need to actually develop their large and small muscles—remember that? These are just a couple of items that our experts have removed from the Kindergarten agenda.

January 12, 2010 at 2:13 PM

By: Sharon Schmidt

No more gardens for kids?

When our son Sam was five it really hurt to send him to kindergarten. This little guy had no recess. He had to memorize sight words, work on countless phonics sheets, do nightly and weekend homework, and have Friday spelling tests. He cried a lot. Once he said, "I don't get enough hugs."

At least his teacher read aloud. He loved hearing James and the Giant Peach in class. But he wanted/needed to play, too.

Now as a third grader Sam is a reader and writer. This is largely in thanks to a wonderful first grade teacher who allowed inventive spelling and had a great classroom library (and read aloud to the kids) and his current teacher who also reads alound and never skips the daily silent sustained reading period in class.

That early push by the school to teach all kindergarteners to read and spell correctly was painful and didn't work. Sam's reading kicked in at around age 7--as it does for most kids. The phonics work and sight word memorization work should happen when age appropriate when it's meaningful. All academics and no play for these tiny kids (as the writer above states) is more than a waste of time.

January 12, 2010 at 5:56 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher/parent

I think this insanity is part of the reason that more parents are turning to homeschooling. Teachers are being forced in all grades to rush through so much material at the beginning to mid-year (Sept.-March) that many students can't absorb it and there is no time for review and then teachers are blamed if students don't test well. Kindergarten should be a time for learning social skills and having fun not for a heavy push on academics. When I found out that a friend's daughter had failed K, I couldn't believe it. To me, this sets up a lifetime concept of failure. Students become ready to learn things at different ages. I remember one student (SPED) who couldn't read one word in 5th grade, the following year he made a four year gain. It wasn't so much what I did as that he matured to the point that he was ready to read. I remember reading a study a few years back that Japan had one of the highest suicide rates among industrial nations because of school pressure. Do we want that to happen in this country? I for one don't. LET KIDS, BE KIDS and they will learn when they are ready. I don't know many 7th or 8th grade that do well in the situation described above. All kids need to take a break from time to time and the younger the child, the stronger the need.

I also wonder how many of the administrators who are pressuring K this way would want it for their own children? I'm sure there are some who would but not many.

January 12, 2010 at 5:57 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher/parent

I think this insanity is part of the reason that more parents are turning to homeschooling. Teachers are being forced in all grades to rush through so much material at the beginning to mid-year (Sept.-March) that many students can't absorb it and there is no time for review and then teachers are blamed if students don't test well. Kindergarten should be a time for learning social skills and having fun not for a heavy push on academics. When I found out that a friend's daughter had failed K, I couldn't believe it. To me, this sets up a lifetime concept of failure. Students become ready to learn things at different ages. I remember one student (SPED) who couldn't read one word in 5th grade, the following year he made a four year gain. It wasn't so much what I did as that he matured to the point that he was ready to read. I remember reading a study a few years back that Japan had one of the highest suicide rates among industrial nations because of school pressure. Do we want that to happen in this country? I for one don't. LET KIDS, BE KIDS and they will learn when they are ready. I don't know many 7th or 8th grade that do well in the situation described above. All kids need to take a break from time to time and the younger the child, the stronger the need.

I also wonder how many of the administrators who are pressuring K this way would want it for their own children? I'm sure there are some who would but not many.

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