Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Slice of Life - the challenge of public preK

My Tuesday morning mentoring is cancelled this beautiful spring day, because that school is on a different spring break schedule than the rest of us. I have a "found" morning - let's write!
Better yet, let's try my hand at the "Slice of Life" challenge...

"Slice of Life" is a weekly writing challenge on the Two Writing Teachers blog, which I have recently discovered and I encourage you to check out, too. These are some inspirational teachers!

They write:
"Each day we read a little and write a slice of life."

So, I'll take my cue from them.

I read in this morning's Washington Post:

"Funding for early-childhood education declined between 2009 and 2010, even as the Obama administration urged states to increase pre-kindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year olds, according to a study released Tuesday.

[Education Secretary Arne] Duncan said yesterday that the cuts present "real challenges to young people who are desperately fighting to enter the mainstream."

Funding challenges aside, teaching 3 and 4 year olds in our public schools is pretty much a given in many locations throughout our nation. (For example, D.C.)

But, I wonder (or, perhaps, I vent)-

Who decides what that education looks like?
What are the differences between private preschools and public ones? What are the similarities? Are there bridges between?
What is the effect of having preschool in an elementary school - does it change the tone of the program?
How do we ensure that learning through play is the foundation of these public programs?
How do we ensure that preschool classrooms reflect the individual children and community within?

I've taught at private preschools for years. I am now mentoring PreK teachers in public schools. I have been reflecting lots about the two worlds.

I've never had to teach a stand-alone math period.
Yet, my teaching is rich with counting, measuring, problem-solving, logic.

I've never had to teach a stand-alone language period.
Yet, my teaching is rich with reading, vocabulary, word play, writing, storytelling.

I've never had a scripted curriculum.

I've never had to give my children tests.

I start with children's interests - the children in my class. The curriculum themes emerge.

I intentionally weave reading, math, social-emotional, music, physical, art, engineering, sensory, and other opportunities into every topic.

Give me your child-centered, playful topic and I will tell you the learning possibilities. I will even provide you with data and documentation.

For me as teacher, this is an exhilarating, dynamic, and intellectual pursuit - I am continually observing, learning, and changing.

Is this approach unique to private preschools?
How might we ensure that it is not?

Strong leadership is essential to secure funding for public preschool.
Strong leadership is also essential for how it is executed - how public preschool plays out, pun intended.


  1. Thanks for joining us today. Your slice gives me hope and makes me wish we could sit and talk. I love these lines: "Give me your child-centered, playful topic and I will tell you the learning possibilities. I will even provide you with data and documentation."
    Happy teaching,

  2. Thank you, Ruth. I have been so heartened by your blog, Two Writing Teachers (http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/) and the inspirational exchange and dialogue it has fostered among so many teachers. There is hope!

  3. I have a two year old granddaughter who is just beginning her 'formal' schooling, & I'd love to have you teach her. Going from the child to what is taught is so empowering, even for the very young. I teach in an individualized independent school, and that is the heart of our philosophy. I hope that much of the early preparation pre-school does not lose funding, for all of our futures!

  4. Thank you for this! So great to know other schools start with the child. I can't imagine any other way.

  5. Hail fellow well met! Thanks for visiting my blog, I will certainly be checking back into yours. I'm glad to hear from someone else in early childhood.

  6. Public schools which are funded by the public should not be run by politicians with 0 education research, experience or policy experience. Remember these same politicians come and go based on votes. We do have some say, but that means teachers must communicate to their communities about what rich, creative, joyful, powerful and respectful pre-school is!
    United we stand sweetie!