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What children need now

  • 1.  What children need now

    Posted 04-06-2021 02:44 PM

    A friend passed along this letter that was sent to her by a friend. It was headed "This letter was written by a superintendent in upstate New York (Voorheesville)" I'm posting it here because I have been seeing lots of mentions in the newspaper of summer programs "To catch children up" which i think is the opposite of what we need and I think this letter says it better than I ever could and needs to be widely distributed.

    Dear Friends and Colleagues:

    I am writing today about the children of this pandemic. After a lifetime of working among the young, I feel compelled to address the concerns that are being expressed by so many of my peers about the deficits the children will demonstrate when they finally return to school. My goodness, what a disconcerting thing to be concerned about in the face of a pandemic which is affecting millions of people around the country and the world. It speaks to one of my biggest fears for the children when they return. In our determination to "catch them up," I fear that we will lose who they are and what they have learned during this unprecedented era. What on earth are we trying to catch them up on? The models no longer apply, the benchmarks are no longer valid, the trend analyses have been interrupted. We must not forget that those arbitrary measures were established by people, not ordained by God. We can make those invalid measures as obsolete as a crank up telephone! They simply do not apply.

    When the children return to school, they will have returned with a new history that we will need to help them identify and make sense of. When the children return to school, we will need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned. Remember, their brains did not go into hibernation during this year. Their brains may not have been focused on traditional school material, but they did not stop either. Their brains may have been focused on where their next meal is coming from, or how to care for a younger sibling, or how to deal with missing grandma, or how it feels to have to surrender a beloved pet, or how to deal with death. Our job is to welcome them back and help them write that history.

    I sincerely plead with my colleagues, to surrender the artificial constructs that measure achievement and greet the children where they are, not where we think they "should be." Greet them with art supplies and writing materials, and music and dance and so many other avenues to help them express what has happened to them in their lives during this horrific year. Greet them with stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world. They missed you. They did not miss the test prep. They did not miss the worksheets. They did not miss the reading groups. They did not miss the homework. They missed you.

    Resist the pressure from whatever 'powers that be' who are in a hurry to "fix" kids and make up for the "lost" time. The time was not lost, it was invested in surviving an historic period of time in their lives-in our lives. The children do not need to be fixed. They are not broken. They need to be heard. They need be given as many tools as we can provide to nurture resilience and help them adjust to a post pandemic world.

    Being a teacher is an essential connection between what is and what can be. Please, let what can be demonstrate that our children have so much to share about the world they live in and in helping them make sense of what, for all of us has been unimaginable. This will help them– and us– achieve a lot more than can be measured by any assessment tool ever devised. Peace to all who work with the children!

    Margery Heyl
    Chicago IL

  • 2.  RE: What children need now

    Posted 04-10-2021 09:34 AM
    Thank you Margery!

    This is an important message to all of us in the Early Care and Education Profession. I will share it wholeheartedly with students in our Administration and Leadership Courses at the University.

    Linda Boss
    University of WI - Platteville
    Lewistown PA

  • 3.  RE: What children need now

    Posted 04-10-2021 10:17 PM
    Margery, I have so many thoughts and emotions in my head after reading that. I feel like I just have to let it out of me and share that I feel stressed and anxious when I think about ECE post-covid. It has been my experience that play-based preschools are not as common as traditional/academic. Play wasn't recognized as important to the general public before; I feel like the post-covid push to "catch children up" is only going to harm play even more. I'm sorry to be so pessimistic but who better to share this with than people who actually care about ECE.

    Pre-K Teacher
    SF Bay Area

  • 4.  RE: What children need now

    Posted 04-12-2021 10:55 AM

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!   I so wish that people would look at our education system in this way.  I have heard so many times... These children are missing out on learning.  They will all be emotionally damaged if we do not get them back to school  "to prepare" for the real world.  Hello, what have they been doing?  This pandemic is teaching our children more than we think.    I am the Director of a preschool and we had to close for this past school year.  It broke my heart!  Now we have the opportunity to take what they have been doing during the pandemic and build on that.  We WILL have play, and lots of it!  Our class sizes may be smaller, but this is an even better chance to do that one on one.    Most educators of older children do not have the time anymore to give the kids a one on one instruction.  They are all forced to teach that the "Test is all that matters".  THAT is how our children fall behind.  Not because they were home with mom and dad for a year.
    I apologize for the ramble.  I am so tired of people who are not in education trying to decide what is best for our teachers and children.

    Michelle Endy
    Woodbridge, Va

    Michelle Endy
    Good Shepherd Preschool
    Woodbridge VA