Preschool is Crushing Kids Because Teachers Are Crushed.
Or, the fastest way to uncrush kids
I started my Monday morning the same way I often do — prepare our weekly update email, check out the latest in child care news, catch up on the weekend with my teammates. This morning when I sat down at my desk, I caught eye of this article in The Atlantic, “The New Preschool is Crushing Kids”, and it stopped me in my tracks. We are often very critical of Educators and of our current education platforms, so I’m sympathetic to teachers (myself included) doing what we can with little resources. As a new parent, I’m really interested in preschool learning opportunities, and as the Marketing Manager for HiMama, I am keen to help innovate in a sector in need of alleviating teaching stress through digital ease.
Here’s the most striking part of this piece:
“The academic takeover of American early learning can be understood as a shift from what I would call an “ideas-based curriculum” to a “naming-and-labeling-based curriculum.” Not coincidentally, the latter can be delivered without substantially improving our teaching force. Inexperienced or poorly supported teachers are directed to rely heavily on scripted lesson plans for a reason: We can point to a defined objective, and tell ourselves that at least kids are getting something this way.”
We are once again problem-focused, not solution-focused. The challenge with calling out the framework based nature of institutionalized preschool programs is it doesn’t get to the heart of one of the core challenges — Educators are stuck in challenging jobs, with intense reporting demands and a lack of professional development and career building opportunities. How often do you see Educators posting best practices or top 10 how-to articles on LinkedIn? (A practice so often seen amongst my fellow Marketers).
The lack of industry sharing and advice has everything to do with the resource strapped nature of the profession. We have no time. It’s hard enough to find high quality early childhood educators, let alone emergent learning focused Teachers willing to test approaches and innovate. At HiMama, I have seen first hand success from leading centers who’ve invested in solutions to help them take back time to focus on program planning. Technology is a key solution, as is strong parent communication; noted in The Atlantic piece. The change averse preschools we encounter continue to struggle with workloads and implementation demands. We can’t change the regulations tomorrow — so talking about a government fueled solution only sends us in an endless stress loop.
Our team has frequently noted that our most engaged childcare center Directors, who are excelling with digital communication to parents, are so busy building and maintaining a strong team that there is rarely time to stop and reflect on what could be done differently — they can’t share professional best practices, or seek new training opportunities, because there is barely any time to get the required work off the table. Add government mandated frameworks without an implementation plan and you’ve got a mountain of work to do. The frameworks are there to help streamline learning for children, but what about streamlining career opportunities for Educators? We need to realign our teaching processes with the new demands of these reporting frameworks and look for ways to make our jobs easier — with technology, starting today.
Without supporting our teachers and providing the very best employment opportunities (not to mention higher wages), it’s no surprise that early learning is shifting to a simplified and over regulated model. It’s sad, because children are the ones who suffer from the lack of emergent learning opportunities while teachers are blamed for a system put in place to propel learning with the least amount of friction. To stay solution focused in 2016, we need to invest in our Teachers. With stronger talent comes industry shift away from over-regulation and more innovation for early learning — the fastest way to un-crush kids.