Rethinking Kindergarten

I’ve been teaching for 33 years and have seen a lot of trends and witnessed the shifts in society that have impacted our educational world. But the crisis we are seeing with our youngest students lately has been overwhelming our teachers and our schools in a way I have never seen. Children are coming into our schools with such an increase in dysregulated behavior that is impacting the educational environment for all students. Whether it is the result of ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences of trauma from violence, poverty, addiction, neglect, abuse, separation, mental health, etc) or some other reasons, we are having to rethink how we educate these young children so that they can have a more hopeful future.

In our district in Maine, we are taking some time this year as a kindergarten team to look at alternative ways to structure our teaching day that can help students develop a sense of belonging and find ways to cope with the stresses of life so that they CAN self-regulate in order to learn.

We have discussed incorporating more play, adjusting academic expectations, delaying classroom placement at the start of the year, examining supportive routines and rituals, and integrating experiences that tap into multiple intelligences.  At our last workshop day we focused on the latter-inviting in a professor from University of Maine at Farmington to help us take a look at how multiple intelligence (MI) theory could help us frame some experiential learning for kindergarten that may address the interests and needs of all learners, especially those most at risk.

Now I realize there is often conflation of learning styles and MI, but we are thinking about this theory as a rejection of the ‘one size fits all’ model of learning and recognizing that we all have intelligences beyond the 3 Rs and that we don’t just want to raise “college and career ready” students, but that we want to raise human beings who can have successful and fulfilling lives.

At this point, we still have more questions than answers. What is this going to look like? How will we integrate this into our current framework? What resources or materials will we need? How will this impact first grade? Subsequent grades? How will we support our teachers? We are clearly in the messy research and reflection phase with no clear direction, but we know we can’t continue with our current model. The meltdowns, disruptions, and defiance are corrupting the learning environment and not meeting the needs of those distressed children. We have adopted Collaborative Literacy: a  curriculum with a heavy focus on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as well as reading and writing. We’ve hired more social workers, counselors, and deans of students but the crisis is growing for those coming into the educational setting.

I’ll keep you posted on our journey, but in the meantime I would love to hear from others who may be having similar experiences with the growing needs of young students and how you are seeking to support them.

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Sketchnote of our Early Release Workshop on Rethinking Kindergarten

One More Off My TBR Stack

Image result for something rotten: a fresh look at roadkillSOMETHING ROTTEN: A FRESH LOOK AT ROADKILL by Heather L. Montgomery
Every once in awhile you read a book that changes the way you think about something-often something so common that you rarely give it much thought to begin with. This book is one of them. Author Heather Montgomery’s fascination with roadkill translates into a an en”gross”ing look at scientific research that depends on DOR (dead on road) and URP (unidentified road pizza) to research parasitic diseases, track species, cure cancer, and even cut down on auto accidents. She also found that roadkill is used for art and sustainable food sources. I had no idea about so many of these aspects. I can say for certain that I will never be able to look at roadkill the same way again-and that is the power of a well written book! If you think nonfiction is boring, you just aren’t reading the right books! Not for the squeamish, but perfect for the curious minds out there! (oh, and don’t skip the footnotes: informative and hilarious)

2 thoughts on “Rethinking Kindergarten

  1. Interesting. Interesting. I’ve been teaching for 27 years and it seems that yes, we are seeing some of what you point out. I think it’s all about connecting with children and each other. I am sure there are many pathways to this connecting. I applaud you and your colleagues for thinking, problem solving, problem finding together – all in the name of children!

  2. This has come at such a perfect time for me…also have had discussions about this but not as specific as yours. Thanks for the info and the support of not feeling alone in this situation!

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