Several years ago, my youngest daughter was identified as “gifted” according to the standardized tests that children take each school year. Once she received this identification, the teachers wrote an education plan to address her specific needs at the beginning of the year and then provided me with a summary of how her plan worked at the end of the year. This year, in particular, I was so impressed with what the teachers shared with me. The teachers identified my daughter as a leader in her group. They also used words like “complex problem solving skills noted,” “deductive and inductive reasoning skills exhibited,” “empathy and kindness expressed for classmates,” and “excellent work ethic” to describe her. I am such a proud mom. I know these are all skills that are going to last her a life time. But I will be honest, I wonder if these skills were evident because of her “gifted” identification or if her high quality preschool education prepared her with these life skills.
My daughter was fortunate enough to attend a high quality-rated preschool program during the early years of Step Up To Quality. Her preschool teacher spent many hours preparing the classroom environment, getting to know the children and educating herself on best practices to meet the needs of those in her classroom. Abby was blessed and so was I to have someone so dedicated to the field and best interests of every child she encountered.
When I think back to Abby’s classroom environment, it was arranged so that many types of materials were available and accessible for her to interact with. The classroom belonged to the children and the teacher was there to support what she saw them doing by providing a safe place for them to be. Children in this classroom were able to take risks and share ideas because they were valued. Their learning styles were noticed and planned for. Endless time spent at the water table dumping and pouring allowed Abby to develop those initial problem solving skills. When Abby would get her shirt wet, her teacher never told her what to do to fix the problem but rather encouraged her to think for herself and asked difficult questions to allow Abby to solve her own problems. When Abby wanted everyday to be swim day in the summer, her teacher helped her create a picture calendar of events so that Abby (and the other children) could determine what would come before swim day and after swim day. She didn’t give them the answers, yet provided them the tools to find the answers on their own. She trusted and believed in their capabilities—giving them the confidence to hold themselves in high regard as scientists and chefs and engineers or anything else they wanted to become.
My Abby has big goals. She hopes to be the first woman President of the United States. She wants to be a veterinarian and an author too. And I believe, because of the skills she learned early on, she can be any or all of those things. Most importantly, so does she.
Thanks Early Childhood Teachers, I am forever grateful for the next generation of dreamers and thinkers that you inspire.