A Kindergarten Teacher Responds to “Kindergarten Cram”

A kindergarten teacher posted a comment that I want to make sure everyone sees. This is what s/he says:

As a kindergarten teacher (don’t shoot me) policy and curriculum is not set by the teacher and many times not by the school, but by standards set by the state and federal government. I agree that we are overtesting and not giving children enough “free” time. We do not even get “recess” for our kindergartners. What kind of social skills are we giving them? What adult wants to go somewhere for a meeting/educational activity without much of anything but a bathroom break in 3-4 hours? This is what many kindergarteners face. I am proud of the parent that “checked” out the school she was sending her child to and their policies. Most of my parents are not even aware of no recess in our schools….. We are burning out our kids on reading before 2nd grade because we are not teaching the LOVE of reading but attaching a test every time they read a book. The teachers do not have control. Parents need to get involved and push for change. Teachers would lose their jobs if they didn’t do what is considered their job “the way the standards” make them teach……

8 thoughts on “A Kindergarten Teacher Responds to “Kindergarten Cram”

  1. A teacher at a school district in Houston a couple of years ago (where I’m from) protested state testing by refusing to proctor. There was some statewide teacher movement going on at the time, I think, but the school was supportive of the teacher and even went on record as agreeing!

    I know some teachers will send a *short* letter home with their kids at the beginning of the year explaining the school’s policy and their opinion, but the ability to do that probably depends on the policy of the school…

    Anyway-I just wanted to point out that teachers are not usually helpless! People always have a choice… and districts won’t easily dismiss a teacher 🙂

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  2. Its hard to be an involved parent. I am very involved (I have a son with an IEP, so I’m probably more involved than many parents). Once you squawk too much, you are labeled as a “vocal” parent.

    I am also not of the opinion that teachers are powerless in this. Policy changes often come from within. As a professional teacher, your opinion often holds more weight than mine as a parent (who, when trying to descrease homework is considered untrained, emotional, and lazy.) As a professional, you also have the responsibility to advocate for the children you teach.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a teacher losing a job except for in cases where they have actually committed a criminal act or something. I’m not convinced that speaking up is going to cost you your job.

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  3. You letter is very heartfelt but I’m going to agree with all the parents above.

    There seems to be a constant theme I hear here from teachers. You are the sensitive enlightened one; we’ve heard from teachers here who were snide of us, dismissive and vehemently defended homework. When we scratched the surface, as if were psychoanalysts, we discovered the teachers were really angry at school administration and the state and a “meddlesome” parent just made them feel more impotent. Like the guy who can’t punch the boss so he comes home and kicks the dog.

    Kindergarten teacher, you’ve gotten to first base. You are at least aware and distressed by what you see happening to your students – loss of recess, love of reading drummed out of them, bored, restless anxious little kids who are slowly beginning to hate school, all at the ripe old age of five. That’s not just unfortunate, that’s a tragedy. And an urgent one at that.

    But I’m not letting you off the hook so easily. You are not the first one to place all the burden on the parents. I hear you so please accept this in the constructive way it is intended. You cannot push all the responsibility onto parents and hide behind that whine I’m hearing all too often here, “I’m going to lose my job if I say anything.”

    Dear teacher, that’s a cop out. I hear you but dare I say we wouldn’t be in this spot if you’d all done something sooner. We had Bush for eight years and now NCLB has been around long enough for us to see some data. And the data is not good, the damaging effects all around us. That the state foists this upon you is a travesty. That teachers en masse have not protested this is shameful.

    Susan Ohanian, the country’s most ardent voice against standardized testing keeps calling you all to action. She’s a former teacher turned author, lecturer and activist and she works tirelessly on your behalf. You aren’t going to find a better teachers’ advocate in this galaxy. But she cannot do it alone.

    Kindergarten teacher, you’re a cut above some of the other scared frail teachers on this blog. Many of them have gone so far as to declare, in other words, get over it. We have to do it, we have to assign all this busy work, we have to teach to the test, we have to constantly quantify and measure. Good. When our children grow up and ask us why their education was hijacked, we will tell them we sacrificed them to protect their teachers’ jobs. I am sure our kids will look us in the eye, smile and thank us for our collective inertia.

    Teacher, stop telling us you are going to be fired. I know right now there is suddenly a glut of college graduates who want to teach. Some of them are passionate, some of them just need a job. But you know what? Well before this economic downturn, well before our employment crisis, when you couldn’t find enough good teachers if your life depended on it, I heard the same mantra. I’m going to lose my job.

    Really? Why so fearful. They can’t fire all of you. C’mon, my daughter has had some pretty sorry teachers in public school. You mean to tell me they are going to keep her and not you because you spoke up? What is this, fascism? Ludicrous though it may seem, if you are not careful, you are going to create a fascist-like environment in the schools. If that’s not already happening. You fear speaking up for fear of losing your job, you shove the responsibility onto the parents who have no powerful union to back them up and have trouble organizing themselves, and then when said parent does screw up the courage, she is labeled a troublemaker. And you, teacher, run for cover.

    You can’t hide .Do something. Do it now. As Susan Ohanian writes, what will it take to preserve your profession? How much do you truly care? Your first step should be to sign up for her listserv. Send her money. Sign petitions. You can so anonymously. Do it today. Don’t hide behind your fear and expect parents to make it better for you. If you do not take a stand, who will?

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  4. Like others, I’ve been the parent pressing for change, and after beating my head against a brick wall until it bled, I took my child out of the public schools. I don’t know what it would take for the parents to be heard. It seems like the teachers are so worried about obeying district mandates and following the principal’s orders that the needs of the kids and the desires of their parents are forgotten. And the PTA (or HSA, in our district) is no help either. At our school, the HSA should was just the principal’s fan club and echo chamber. There is nowhere for a parent to take concerns about the way the school is run. And it’s all funded by our tax dollars! It’s crazy.

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  5. As a parent who has recently taken her children out of public school to homeschool, I can say that the elimination of homework from our lives has been more than a breath of fresh air; it has been a gusting wind that has cleared our minds and opened up the opportunities to be happy to learn again.

    That said, when my first grader was in school, he needed extra reading help. He was lucky enough to get 30 minutes of special reading help every day for 1 semester. That 30 minutes a day (in addition to reading at home) changed his abilities 180 degrees!

    If only we could provide for every child the opportunity to have 1-1 or 1-5 or less a day. A situation where individual questions and goals can be met without the stress of having to cater to the most intelligent and the slowest in a class of 30. (throw in bathroom breaks, behavior interruptions, sick days, etc. and it’s a miracle that ANY child learns ANYthing in a public classroom.)

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