Shari's Soapbox

Shari's Soapbox ~ by Shari Kalter, Director of the Lillie Brandt Early Childhood Center
Posted on 12/19/2019
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One morning at drop off, when I first started teaching, a mother was complaining about a very difficult day awaiting her. I sympathized with her, saying that I completely understood what it's like to have a difficult day at work. The mother looked at me in utter confusion and said, “But you just play all day.” I was too dumbfounded to reply.

Fast forward 12 years. A father dropped his daughter off for pre-kindergarten two hours late. He informed me that she was very tired, so he had decided to let her sleep late because “it’s only pre-kindergarten.” He followed that statement by saying, “No offense.” This time, I responded with the largest smile and kindest voice, “Offense taken.” That night I received an apology email from the father.

There are many schools of thought regarding early childhood education. Some parents want their children to play all day, while others are expecting them to read, write, and master math by the time they enter kindergarten. Some parents believe that all we do is play all day, while others think that we are pushing them too fast academically. Educators also have very strong feelings regarding play versus academics. I strongly believe that a great school and educator does both. Balance is key.

At Gottesman RTW Academy, the goal in every early childhood classroom is progress, not perfection. Milestones in early childhood are not predetermined, because they vary so much for each individual child. Instead, we get to know each child in the beginning of the school year and create developmentally appropriate goals that make sense for each specific child. While one child may be ready to write his or her name, another child may still be working on pencil grip, and that is okay and age-appropriate. Pushing a child to do a task that he or she is not ready for can be detrimental to the learning experience. We set up positive, useful building blocks for our early childhood students to build upon so that they can continue to progress year after year in a confident and successful manner.

Learning is intertwined in every detail of every activity. Our classrooms are thoughtfully designed and divided into learning centers, to create intentional play that teaches children to achieve desired outcomes. Through an intentionally prepared environment, children learn the skills they need to be successful in school and in life. A play-centered curriculum allows for teachers to act as facilitators of children's learning. Through the various learning centers in the classroom, students learn life skills, including time management, self-regulation, language development, fine motor skill development, conflict resolution, basic engineering, self-expression, creativity, beginning math concepts, hand-eye coordination, motor skills, daily routines, self-help skills, and much more.

Our early childhood students do not JUST play all day and teachers do not JUST facilitate play all day. Our teachers are thoughtfully creating confident, lifelong learners, and they are masters of their trade. I am so grateful to work at Gottesman RTW Academy where this is what every teacher believes and actively pursues with her students. Each individual child is important and special. Most of all, every child gets exactly what he or she needs academically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually in the most loving and caring environment. The perfect balance!