In the American mindset I think we often have blinders when considering the reality we create for our kids. For example, this article shared by my friend Tracy Rosen on FB talks about how children in France are not diagnosed with ADHD. If they do have symptoms psychologists in France take the view that it is a psychosocial phenomena. I have long felt the same way. As a teacher I was able to be successful with students who moved onto other grades and teachers and became “ADHD”. Maybe I had my own blinders but I often think kids who struggle with impulse control and attention, when placed into a predictable environment that allows for a certain amount to these behaviors can be successful. The other thing about the French perspective is that all areas of life are considered to contribute to behavior, even nutrition. Check out this quote below.
The French holistic, psycho-social approach also allows for considering nutritional causes for ADHD-type symptoms—specifically the fact that the behavior of some children is worsened after eating foods with artificial colors, certain preservatives, and/or allergens. Clinicians who work with troubled children in this country—not to mention parents of many ADHD kids—are well aware that dietary interventions can sometimes help a child’s problem. In the United States, the strict focus on pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD, however, encourages clinicians to ignore the influence of dietary factors on children’s behavior.
My wife and I decided when my son was 2 years-old that he had difficulty dealing with artificial colors and flavors. There is plenty of artificial ingredients in America but maybe not so much in France? We asked his teachers not to give him fake stuff at class parties. We had a lot of trouble explaining this at first. It did not compute that green frosting on a cupcake could be artificial. Finally we figured out if we told them he is allergic to food coloring and coached him to recognize packaging that was likely to to have artificial flavoring he could manage it himself. Anything that had pictures of fruit on it but said “10% Real Fruit Juice” was not real. He was so sensitive he could figure it out for himself through taste. We went to a function once where there was lemonade, fake lemonade that is. My son had one sip and said, “I can’t drink that, it tastes chemically.” He then had a melt down about 5 minutes later. I suggest this to my students parents who struggle with their kids’ behavior all the time but I think in America we don’t necessarily make that connection between the mind and the body. This is especially true in high poverty neighborhoods where access fresh fruits and vegetables are rare but more importantly that families in these neighborhoods look for extremely satisfying sensory experiences. I attribute this to the financial relationship between happiness and poverty. If you can’t have the car you see on TV at least you can have the hamburger and it looks so good.
A few notes on what I have learned or re-learned recently.
Don’t wear ties to school, the kids like to yank on them. At least not this year, when I had my class from the beginning of the year I could teach them but, since I came in half way through, I have to choose my battles. (Besides I don’t like ties that much.)
Finger paint is an effective projectile, if you have enough of it.
Sorry doesn’t mean anything to kids, unless it is accompanied by a consequence first.
One weekend full of abusive language in one child’s life can effectively disrupt the the lives of 17 kids and 2 teachers for approximately 2 weeks. I learned this when one of my more challenging students came to school and dropped some not so choice words. She was angry and the words were completely out of context. Since that day I have decided that one layer of teaching this class is providing a safe place for students who live in difficult situations to let go of their anger. Its kind of like primal scream therapy some days.
Parents care what teachers think of them and they listen. I did a home visit and changed the nature of the connection between myself, a parent, and a child tin an almost palpable way.
When trying to convey a story to a difficult class of active young children it can be helpful to cross-over storyteller to performance artist and become the story.
If a child displays ADD or ADHD type behaviors but, with proper support is able to change those behaviors, the behaviors may be learned instead of a chemical imbalance. Either way, accommodating those behaviors, without trying to encourage small steps of improvement, is a disservice to the child.
Sit in the pocket and you can see the whole thing. This last one I just learned. Thursday I had a really rough day. I took offense to something an adult said earlier in the day and it sent me into a spiral. The kids could sense I was not in the zone and kept making it worse. The only moment that I felt learning was actually happening was during a music and movement time. The class had just finished singing the Tooty Ta by Dr. Jean and they all yelled and clapped “Woohoo!” During the truly uninspired performance by my kids I pulled back from the moment and realized that I had allowed my frustration from earlier to color my vision of the moment. I had only seen two children actually sing and perform the song. I said, “Wait a minute. You guys were not that good. If you want to try it again and really sing, then we can clap and shout.” I turned on the music and they launched into the performance. Every child sang. Every child participated. Every child gave their best effort and there it was, a real teaching moment of beauty. As I sang and did the performance with the class I encouraged them, “That’s it. That’s my class!” When they finished we all yelled and cheered. While we were doing the song I kept remembering my own daughter performing the song on stage 7 years ago with her friend. I realized I had pulled back from the situation so much that I felt like I was sitting in a pocket of time. I felt like I imagine a great quarterback feels when the chaos swirls all around, time slows down, and that perfect pass becomes apparent because they are able to wait for it. (I only imagine this, I have never been a quarterback). That was the best two minutes of the whole day.
On Friday, I was determined to take that experience and expand it. It worked. I was more patient, the kids were more connected to myself and their peers, and there was much more learning.
As the students in my classroom watched the inauguration, my assistant cried. (Just a little bit.) It was an amazing thing to see history in the making. It affected everyone in our economically challenged urban elementary school. Yesterday, as I listened to the post-party coverage and people talking on their cell phones in the grocery store, I was struck by how many people are concerned about President Obama moving left or right of where they think he stood on issues. This morning I heard a radio comment that now is the time for everyone to make their opinions known and that they should remind our president of where he has come from. So here is my “don’t forget the pre-k” post-it note for President Obama.
We seem to be on the right track. The House economic stimulus package in Congress already has 2.1 billion for Head Start in it as described in this Wall Street Journal article about the loads of promises the president made on the campaign trail.
President Obama has mentioned funding early childhood education many times since 2007. So in the spirit of David Letterman, I give you President Barack Obama’s Top 10 quotes on early childhood education as found on the website On the Issues. and Youtube.
10 Obama supports increasing funding for the Head Start program for preschool children. Obama has called on states to replicate the Illinois model of Preschool for All.
Campaign website, BarackObama.com, “Resource Flyers” Aug 26, 2007
9 We can start by investing $10 billion to guarantee access to quality, affordable, early childhood education for every child in America. Every dollar that we spend on these programs puts our children on a path to success, while saving us as much as $10 in reduced health care costs, crime, and welfare later on. Source: Speech in Flint, MI, in Change We Can Believe In, p.249 Jun 15, 2008
Put billions of dollars into early childhood education 8 Latinos have such a high dropout rate. What you see consistently are children at a very early age are starting school already behind. That’s why I’ve said that I’m going to put billions of dollars into early childhood education that makes sure that our African-American youth, Latino youth, poor youth of every race, are getting the kind of help that they need so that they know their numbers, their colors, their letters. Every dollar that we spend in early childhood education, we get $10 back in reduced dropout rates, improved reading scores. That’s the kind of commitment we have to make early on. Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008
7 Teachers don’t go in to education to get rich. They don’t go in to education because they don’t believe in their children. They want their children to succeed, but we’ve got to give them the tools. Invest in early childhood education. Invest in our teachers and our children will succeed. Source: Take Back America 2007 Conference Jun 19, 2007
6 If you’re a progressive, you’ve got to be worried about how the federal government is spending its revenue, because we don’t have enough money to spend on things like early childhood education that are so important. Source: 2008 Politico pre-Potomac Primary interview Feb 11, 2008
5 Children’s First Agenda: zero to five early education
High-Quality Zero to Five Early Education: Obama will launch a Children’s First Agenda that provides care, learning and support to families with children from birth up to five years old. Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 20-23 Feb 2, 2008
4 We’ve got to have early childhood education. Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum Jul 12, 2007
3 We’ll invest in early childhood education programs so that our kids don’t begin the race of life behind the starting line and offer a $4,000 tax credit to make college affordable for anyone who wants to go. Because as the NAACP knows better than anyone, the fight for social justice and economic justice begins in the classroom. Source: McCain-Obama speeches at 99th NAACP Convention Jul 12, 2008
2 Michelle and I are here only because we were given a chance at an education. I will not settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance. I’ll invest in early childhood education. Source: Speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention Aug 27, 2008
1 This clip really seems to show where his heart is on the issue of voluntary Pre-K. Hopefully, he won’t forget.
In the maelstrom of our current economic crisis, a radical new education bill has made it out of the House and is headed to the Senate. The bill titled No Child Left Inside is making tiny little waves in the sea of education reform. It is a bill that essentially requires environmental education in schools with the goal of developing citizens’ feelings of stewardship.
As a pre-k teacher I am ecstatic to have a federal mandate to take my students outside. It is like your parents telling you that you “Have to have ice cream!” after dinner. If the government wants me take kids outside, I am all for it. From Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi’s website:
On September 18, the House passed the No Child Left Inside Act, H.R. 3036. One of the greatest challenges facing current and future generations is to build a more sustainable, energy-efficient world. By teaching students about the role of the environment as an important national resource, we can prepare them to take on critical issues – energy conservation, air pollution, climate change, wildlife protection – and become better stewards of the earth.
NCLI gets at what is wrong with education today without pointing fingers or directly challenging that other “No Child Left” bill that has narrowed curriculum to the point that schools had stopped teaching some subjects because they weren’t tested. This bill fundementally transforms the role of schools from places to create a viable work force to schools as places to create a viable people.
The No Child Left Inside Act would address this by igniting students’ interest in the outdoors and spurring them to take part in outside activities. And learning to explore the natural world and their personal connection to it inevitably triggers an interest in spending more time in it.
The bill orginated from the work of Richard Louv, who coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv talks about how a nature deficit has contributed to behavioral disorders in children. His book has sparked a national movement to get kids back outside. In Richmond Virginia this Spring there will be a symposium exploring this important subject at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, in conjuction with its 25th anniversary.
If this bill passes in the Senate, you may hear the joyous cries of wild children and adults who are fed up with days spent inside, thier eyes glazed over with the flickering colors of video games. The sound of America waking from the fitful sleep of SecondLife to realize the potential that living in the presence of nature could have on our collective soul might just change education for the better. I know it will confirm what pre-k teachers all over the country already know: kids need to go outside.
Who reads the Wall Street Journal? Pretty much anyone with any amount of political power reads it. So when the WSJ publishes an Op-Ed you know that it is going to be read by the people who will decide the future of public education in our country. A recent piece, titled Protect Our Kids from Preschool, threw the pre-k world for a loop. It made a big enough splash that two of the biggest advocates and researchers of pre-k, David Kirp and Steven Barnett responded in an Op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. Other interested parties in the pre-k community also sent replies to the WSJ. Sadly, as pre-k folks like to practice what we teach in pre-k, they were polite. The responses included some pretty heavy hitters, including: Lawrence J. Schweinhart of High/Scope and James Heckman of University of Chicago (who were misquoted in the article), as well as Susan Urahn of Pew Charitable Trust, and Libby Doggett of Pre-K Now who pointed out the misrepresentation of the facts.
Then Dalmia and Snell fired back. “What!?” you say. Yes, they kept arguing that they were right because what they wrote, that the National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores had not increased very much in Georgia and Oklahoma was true, that their main point is valid.
I feel like I am telling a class of preschoolers it’s raining but, your point is not valid.
One concept I would like to point out in the provocative debate that Dalmia and Snell have engaged the pre-k community in, is the relevance of the NAEP. The two researchers suggest, by basing their argument on the NAEP test results , that the NAEP is a valid indicator of preschool effectiveness. Although a 2000 RAND corporation study found that pre-k positively affected NAEP scores, this would not be the reason I would recommend pre-k to a parent or policymaker. They suggest that one year in a high quality pre-k should positively impact a test score 5 years down the road. A test based on everything a student has learned up to 4th grade. I am a believer in the value of pre-k for many reasons but, passing the NAEP is not one of them.
The NAEP is an important tool for policymakers and leaders to refer to when making decisions about policy. Especially policy that relates to the rigor of a states’ standards. However, it is a poor indicator of which “grade level” is not keeping up their part of the proficiency goal.
Having taught in a public school setting my entire career I am keenly aware of the importance of standards and accountability. We are told every year, “The scores in 3rd grade and 5th grade are not the scores of the 3rd and 5th grade teachers, they are the scores of the entire school.” Even though I teach beginning algebra, statistics, and reading in my class, I am not the only one responsible if one of my former students doesn’t get the answers right on a test 5 years from now.
A study published by the Hoover Institute, found that Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee had the lowest correlation between the number of students achieving proficiency on state tests and the number achieving proficiency on the NAEP. The study “graded” states on whether their proficiency scores matched up to the NAEP. Here is an explanation of the results:
We gauge the differences among states by comparing how students do on state assessments with how they perform on NAEP tests. By comparing the percentage of students deemed proficient on each, it is possible to determine whether states are setting expectations higher, lower, or equal to the NAEP standard. If the percentages are identical (or roughly so), then state proficiency standards can be fairly labeled as “world-class.” If state assessments identify many more students as proficient than the NAEP, then state proficiency figures should be regarded as inflated.
Not surprisingly, when states set low expectations for student proficiency, they did not score well on the NAEP.
Three states—Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee—expected so little of students that they received the grade of F. The state of Georgia, for instance, declared 88 percent of 8th graders proficient in reading, even though just 26 percent scored at or above the proficiency level on the NAEP.
What does this have to do with universal pre-k in these states? It means that even if pre-k is effective at preparing kids for the NAEP in these states we could never tell because the standards in K -12 are not high enough to pass the NAEP anyway.
What has improved as a result of pre-k in Georgia? One indicator is that exceptional education enrollment has decreased each year since 2006. This improvement not only improves lives but saves the state money.
Bill has forgotten the “you should never throw rocks” rule but, remembers: You have to share, even in college, and questions whether university professors are properly prepared to drive change in a share-and-share-alike world where collaboration is the norm and isolation is to be avoided. In Throwing Rocks at the Ivory Tower. . . posted at The Tempered Radical.
John Norton of TLN fame chooses to go to the block area because he writes about Middle School which has a lot to do with team work.
Mrs. Bluebird muses over this particular group of 7th graders and wonders what was in the water about 12 years ago…. possibly wishing more of her kids had gone to pre-k to get some social skills. Mrs. Bluebird presents Not feeling the love posted at Bluebird’s Classroom.
Lightly Seasoned believes teachers should always have tried to do what they ask their kids to do. If it is pre-k we have to dance like a monkey, in high school English it would be to write an I Believe essay posted at Lightly Seasoned.
Dana presents Homeschooling amateurs outdoing professionals posted at Principled Discovery. She says, “What a teacher needs to be successful in the classroom is the freedom to make these decisions for the children in the classroom as well as the support of the children’s families. In all too many instances, the teacher has neither.
It is hardly fair to compare the results to a homeschooling family which has both.”