Updated: May 14
Preschool is very beneficial. Children are able to socialize, meet new friends, drain lots of energy, and learn new things. Could there be a downside to traditional preschool and the expectations that we hold young children to?
"My toddler won’t sit down to learn!"
There’s a huge issue with the education system. Conditioning tells us that young children need to sit down, crisscross applesauce, hands in laps, bubbles in their mouths, and pay attention.
It’s how the system is structured.
This mainly benefits the teacher.
As a former preschool teacher, I get it. I get it completely. There is absolutely no way that we could ever allow 12+ children to just run around with no structure. They need to listen. This is true.
But we need to meet them where they are. We need to consider their learning style. We need to consider socio-economic status/home environment/temperament.
I’ve seen it time and time again. You have a group of toddlers/young preschoolers, there’s a schedule to follow and they’re running around the class. They could care less about the paint that you’ve sat out for art time. There’s a schedule to follow. We need to sit down and paint so that we can sit down and read a book. There’s a schedule to follow. After we read the book, then we’ll stand up and dance but we’ll dance like this and to this song and you must stay exactly on your color and if you don’t follow these instructions, you’ll go sit down until you can listen. Because there’s a schedule to follow.
It takes a lot of energy [and I’m not talking about simply being an energetic person, the mental energy and understanding of a tiny human] to practice classroom management with a group of hyper toddlers/preschoolers.
They need to move. They need to dance. They need to be active. It’s unrealistic to expect them to sit down. The traditional way of learning [sit down, learn a letter, view the sight word, etc] is not as beneficial as we think. The 15 minutes of music time and 30 minutes of recess isn’t always enough. The structured way of learning isn't always as beneficial for the young children who learn better through play.
We want our children to develop a healthy relationship with learning. Learning can happen anywhere at anytime. Learning can happen by following their lead. Learning can happen while dancing. Learning can happen in other ways than having them sit and follow a structured lesson.
“They need to be prepared and know how to sit and listen before advancing.”
Again, this is a systemic issue. Young children are inherently unaware of “advancing” to the next level and what that entails. A three year old doesn’t understand they’ll one day be in a third grade classroom. We must meet them where they are in this stage of their life. If we give them the tools now, that’s setting the foundation. Expecting them to sit now, forcing them to sit now will not guarantee that once they advance, they’ll “sit and listen.” If we want them -really want them- to listen and develop a healthy relationship with learning, we must meet them where they are during those brain building years.
When children can’t sit still, can’t listen, can’t follow directions, it’s routine to point the finger at them and not at the adult, the curriculum, the lesson plan, the system. We call them bad, disobedient, a rebel. The labeling begins early.
Once we start labeling, we prevent ourselves from digging deeper.
Should he have his hearing checked? Vision, maybe? How’d she sleep last night? Is there anything going on at home? Maybe his body just need a minute to get a few wiggles out. Could this not be her learning style? Is she just not interested in this lesson? Is it making sense? Is it too structured? Are they just not understanding? Has their attention span reached its max? Is it a sensory issue?
It’s easier to blame the children for doing what is developmentally expected rather than blaming the system that demands that children meet unrealistic expectations.
There is always a reason behind the behavior.
If we don’t make it our responsibility to make learning fun [if we’re forcing them to sit down] how can we expect them to enjoy reading, learning math, find their learning style, ask questions, and the list is endless.
Labeling follows kids. They know when they’ve been labeled. The problem isn’t with them. It’s with the system.
If we spent more time developing curriculums and lesson plans that work with and not against human development, we would spend a lot less time struggling to follow the schedule and meet these curious + adventurous tiny humans where they are and realizing what they can handle. After all, it isn't about us.
The next time you find yourself labeling a child, consider some of these: