I came across an article published on PopSugar about the absurdity of a list of guidelines that one mother received from her child’s soon-to-be Kindergarten teacher.
The list is as follows…
The mother that received this in a letter home welcoming her child to Kindergarten this fall, believed that the expectations were ridiculous and “unrealistic.” Now I found this argument incredibly interesting.
I have never sent home a list of requirements or guidelines for Kindergarten, however, I do sort of have a list in my head (as I think many educators do in any grade) of what I would really love for the children to know or have some sort of understanding of, when they enter Kindergarten. My list is pretty comparable to this one in that I would really like children to be able to recognize their name, count to 5, be able to have a basic idea of how to manipulate a book, reading left to right, turning the pages in the correct order, etc. Follow 2-3 step directions, and have some fine motor control with a pencil, scissors, or drawing utensil. It would be really amazing if the child knew how to sing the alphabet song, and identify some letters. Although my list is sort of my assessment in that first week (what I look for when we are working in the classroom), would I ever send home a list to families for them to judge their child upon? No. But that’s a totally personal decision, and I have seen most Kindergarten and Early Childhood Educators do this.
In my division, I would say that the majority of “Kindergarten Handbooks” that go home during the Sneak Peek in late-May or June, have a list very similar to this within its pages. In my opinion, I think that the basis behind lists such as these, is not so much to intimidate parents, but to let them know what we look for in those first couple of weeks of school starting. Kindergarten has changed so much over the years, and although we may not agree with it, many Kindergarten students are starting to learn sight words, read levelled books, and be required to write familiar words by the end of the year. I have had a discussion with many colleagues about how Kindergarten is now the “new Grade One,” in which many of the skills that were taught in Grade One, are now seen as a requirement in Kindergarten. Do educators, divisions, school boards, or ministries, actually come out and say in lament terms that they HAVE to have these specific skills, absolutely not. But, there is a sort of quiet assumption that has been made.
In the PopSugar article, it is stated that “…what’s most unnerving about this list is how many letters children are expected to identify. According to Hamilton County, kids need to know “30+ letters” . . . and last we checked, there were only 26 in the alphabet.” They are absolutely right. This goes into an entirely new argument about “teacher-talk” and that educators need to explain to parents what this actually means. Of course there are not 30+ letters in the English alphabet, but what I’m assuming this teacher to be talking about is blends and diagraphs. And yes, I do think that’s really unrealistic to expect a four or five year old to have any recognition or understanding of these, as well as being beyond their mental capacity at this age. So what’s the right thing to do as educators and as parents when you receive a list such as this?
Honestly, I wouldn’t really worry about it. Easier said then done, I know. But, if it is bothering you and keeping you up at night, take the time to talk to your child’s teacher about this. Speak to him/her about the strengths of your child, and what you want for them as they enter this first year of school. I would also be partial to mention my fear of my child “not being up to snuff” with the rest of the class, and asking specifics about whether or not this teacher would be concerned about my child academically if they were not able to meet some of these guidelines before school started. Maybe this will give you some insight, as well, if this teacher/school/division, is the right fit for your child and what you envision for their education journey.
As a teacher, as I already stated, I wouldn’t even bother sending home a list like this. I think it can be misconstrued (as it was in the PopSugar article) as a requirement, and that if a child cannot meet these guidelines, that he/she will not be able to contribute to the classroom learning community. This is definitely not the precedence that I think is compatible to creating strong partnerships with families. Here’s what I do instead, I send home a letter at the beginning of the year. You can read more about this letter and how to engage families in a previous blog post.
I’m writing to ask you to help me become a partner with you in your child’s education. I will only have your child for a short time in this trip through life – just one fleeting school year – and I want to make a contribution that lasts a lifetime.
I know my teaching must begin with making your child feel at home in our classroom, and with helping all the children come together into a learning community made up of particular, unique individuals, each with his or her own learning style and interests and history and hopes. Would you help me teach well by taking a quiet moment to write me about your child? What is your youngster like? What are the things you, as a parent, know that would be important for me to know? What are your child’s interests? I want to know how your child thinks and plays and how you see your child as a learner and a person. I look forward to reading your letters and becoming a partner with you in your child’s learning experience in Kindergarten
This letter is open-ended, asking families to write to me about their child, talk to me about their spirit and how they think, play, and learn at home. It’s about creating an opportunity for discussion and letting families have a voice. I’m telling you, they are my absolute favorite thing to read and I truly value the responses that I get. (They also make a great piece to include in portfolios too!) It’s time to start to rethink how we are responding to families, making children and parents feel welcome, and what we are doing to invite families into the learning of THEIR child. We do not have all the answers as educators and it is totally immoral for us to believe that we do, especially about children that are entering our classroom for the first time.
I would love to hear what you do at the beginning of the year to welcome families into your classroom and how you engage parents within the school landscape.