I feel very passionately about the positive impact that preschool teachers strive to have on the lives of children and their families. Perhaps this is why I pause in the face of the word "daycare" whenever I hear it because in my mind at least "preschool" and "daycare" are not synonymous.
Paints, crayons, and other craft supplies are used in preschool classes every day, but these seemingly simple tools are powerful in the hands of a well trained professional preschool teacher. Preschool teachers use art projects to assess childhood developmental markers including spatial awareness, color and shape recognition, and context comprehension (does the duck belong in the lake, on the train or in the swimming pool?), taking care to use both visual and descriptive cues for the child. For example, the teacher may create a duck using round googly eyes on top of a triangle, showing the example of the triangle in her own artwork and then describing it to the child as having two long sides of equal size and one short side. The teacher then allows the child the opportunity to pick a triangle from an assortment of shapes before them. While one child may not correctly identify the triangle but instead chooses a square despite the visual and descriptive cues, this child is different than the child who correctly identifies the triangle but then verbalizes a preference to use squares instead. In this example, the two children end up with similar art work, but for very different reasons. The teacher is now able to take the necessary steps to address the first child's needs while also ensuring to create a lesson plan that keeps the second child excited and engaged in school.
Although preschool professionals may work with one curriculum for the entire class, they are knowledgeable enough to tailor activity goals to meet the developmental needs of individual child and ensure each child continues to reach and master skill sets while nurturing a child’s need to create according to their own creative vision.
To the untrained eye, a bulletin board display of nearly identical perfectly placed paste and stick art done by a preschool class may be an aesthetically pleasing sight, but it is when we see a bulletin board filled with little paste and stick ducks that has been interpreted in as many different ways as there are children in the class that we know the in-depth interaction that has taken place between a preschool teacher and each of the students.
Now while the duck example may seem innocuous at first, I feel it is an accurate illustration of a teacher working to ensure little ones have a strong scholastic foundation that will support them in their future academic endeavors. Another great way to remain diligent in evaluating a child's developmental progress is by creating student classroom portfolios. They are an informal yet powerful assessment tool that tell the story of a how a child is progressing during the year, as well as a much appreciated and wonderful gift to give to parents as a memento of their child's classroom achievements at the end of the school year.
Another important tool the preschool professional uses is observation. Some might even argue that observation is the MOST important tool a teacher can use. Observation coupled with great resources can help a child that's struggling in any area at school reach their fullest potential.
I'm going to end this months blog here and pickup the topic again next month. I really hope you enjoy this two part series on some of the practices of preschool teachers who are dedicated to ensuring children are flourishing in quality learning environments.
Until next time, remember child development is human development.