The book: What If Everybody Understood Child Development? by Rae Pica
Each week (or so) I'll post a quick review of the content for a chapter and add my own observations or reflections. The chapters are short, perfect for quick reading in the summertime.
Chapter 1: All Children Are Not the Same
Rae Pica notes, and I agree, that the topic of this chapter should be self-evident. Anyone who has studies development knows that each child develops in predictable stages but at his own rate. Some read earlier and some later Some walk earlier and some later. We cannot expect every child to be ready to do the same thing at the same time.
But the current standards and expectations in school are in direct opposition to this understanding. Currently, education standards expect all kindergartners to read by the end of kindergarten. The same expectations are imposed on all kids, regardless of their individual development or growth.
I've seen this dichotomy in action. When I taught second grade, I had a wide range of readers in my classroom. One day I was speaking with a colleague about my kids, looking for some insight and help. I talked about individual kids, their abilities, their progress (or lack), their challenges - at least as I could see them. She said, "Maybe you need to stop looking at each of them individually."
I didn't know how to respond. We talked about possible strategies and ways to do things. I went back to my classroom and pondered. And pondered and pondered. I tried to make sense of what she said. Maybe she meant that I needed to have a more global view of the needs in my classroom to have a plan of attack. Maybe she meant that I was getting lost in the small details and look for trends. I'm still not sure exactly what she meant.
But I know that I cannot stop seeing kids as individuals.
The triplets I have in my church kindergarten classroom are all so different from one another. Yes they are all (now) 6. Yes, they are excited to tell me stories and explore whatever things are in the room. Yes, they are all active and moving, as kindergartners are.
But one is very interested in drawing and creating. One explains things to me and tells me logically how and why things are as they are. One enjoys working with others and can tell me the complete names of all the people in his family. They are different heights and wear different sizes of shoes. (I know because they told me.) They are all different with different ideas and abilities and interests. How can I expect these three brothers (and their friends) to respond to school in exactly the same ways and learn at exactly the same rates.
All kids are different. All learn in their own ways and at their own rates. We need to create learning environments (and expectations) accordingly.
Some links from the book:
- BAM Radio: How to Help Children Learn to Read Well (with Jane Healy)
- BAM Radio: Giving Your Child the Very Best Head Start (with David Elkind)
- BAM Radio: Are Children Smarter, Learning More, Sooner Faster?
- Gesell Institute: CCSS In Kindergarten in Boys
And a couple more: