Keep It Simple for Our Youngest Learners
As we wrap up the month looking at education for our youngest learners, there are many pieces of the equation to grapple with. Like most of you reading this, I cringe at the politicization of education issues that we often see online, on TV, or in other media formats. After all, there is no magic wand to wave for our systematic education woes. On the other hand, there is overwhelming research that shows early education and intervention work wonders on preventing bigger issues down the road.
As a dad to two boys, there seems to be an abundance of attention about boys in schools, and there's added pressure for them to do well. A recent post on Time Magazine's education blog focuses on how to help boys succeed. Yet, as my boys reach the age where standardized testing is the norm (3rd and 5th grades), I remember fondly the days before they were focused on end-of-year tests. I think back to math manipulative chains in preschool, learning independently in a Montessori setting, and having a blast giggling in music and movement classes when they were toddlers. When I ask my boys what their favorite memories are from their early days in preschool, they say "the nice teachers and the friends I made." I know those teachers and friends and the relationships they've created are going to carry beyond the years in school. Through my own Facebook page we keep in touch with the teachers, and they love to get updates and see photos of my boys as they watch them grow up. Keeping in touch in the 21st century is as simple as posting a Halloween or back-to-school photo with a simple caption.
At every step of the way, my wife and I have tried to teach our boys empathy and the value of being mindful of others so that they understand what the people around them go through. In many ways, that's more important to me than times tables and geography. Teachers are under a microscope today for producing data and statistics on performance, but for my own family, I'd prefer my kids' teachers produce caring and thoughtful young men. I know they'll learn plenty of skills and facts along the way, but in these early years I also know that we can thwart a lot of the problems that may lie ahead, not to mention help them be more collaborative and relationship-oriented as they grow into adulthood.
So when we ask ourselves, what does education mean for our youngest learners? let's remind ourselves to keep it simple for the younger students. Strive for them to learn more every day. As a toddler that may mean expanding vocabulary from a few dozen words to a few hundred words in a short period of time. And as they grow, let's hope that every student in every school has the opportunity to expand his knowledge and experiences while being healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Even as an adult, I'm still striving to learn more—education doesn't end at [insert milestone here] graduation.
Kevin Scott is a strategic advisor for Constituent Programs at ASCD, facilitating its programs and initiatives created for younger educators, such as the Emerging Leaders and ASCD Student Chapter programs. He also provides services and consultation to ASCD affiliates. Before coming to ASCD, Scott served as member services manager for the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) at the National School Board Association (NSBA), where he facilitated meetings with members, wrote CUBE's Urban Edge newsletter, provided content for NSBA's BoardBuzz blog, and maintained CUBE's presence on Twitter. Scott spent seven years teaching 7th grade history in Fairfax County Public Schools and has worked for other associations as the education director.