Pre-K teachers lurch between feeling like heroes and feeling like the enemy

By:Launa Hall

kindyg“It’s a Tuesday morning in Room 132, and standing before me is a 4-year-old boy asking for a graham cracker. I’ll call him Josue. His swinging arms are about to topple a crayon cup on my desk, so I steady the cup with one hand and reach for the crackers with the other.

“Ggg — graham cracker. What letter is that, Josue?” I ask, because in the public pre-kindergarten program where I taught for four years, a graham cracker was never just a snack. Every detail, from ceiling to circle-time rug, pulled double duty in pursuit of our mission: to battle the achievement gap. I had just one school year to fill in an early-literacy spreadsheet with categories in uppercase and lowercase letters, letter sounds, rhyming and writing. When Josue went to kindergarten, he would be expected to read.

I am prideful about my completed spreadsheets. A neat row of good scores next to a child’s name reassured parents, lightened the load on my kindergarten-teaching colleagues, and made it easier and less stressful for my students to meet the next round of assessments.

At the same time, I am deeply troubled about the way I pushed Josue and many other children. Early-childhood education studies suggest that hurrying kids to read doesn’t really help them. As Defending the Early Years and the Alliance for Childhood put it in an elegantly simple reportthis month: “No research documents long-term gains from learning to read in kindergarten.” And all the time spent discreetly drilling literacy skills to meet standards imposes a huge opportunity cost. It crowds out the one element in early-childhood classrooms proven to bolster learning outcomes over time: play.” To read further please click here:

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