I was a kid who was lucky enough to go to kindergarten. So when I got to first grade, even though it was a different city and school district, I was ready socially, emotionally, and academically. I'd been prepared and I was able to do well and continue to do well academically. Nothing, social or academic, was difficult enough for me to ever feel very discouraged about school, at least not until I was a little older and had built up some resilience. Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of other factors moving in my favor even as a young child, but never wondering about my educational future made that whole path seem smooth and easily conquerable.
It is not that way for all children, but I think they deserve it to be. I'm pretty proud of where that beginning has brought me. Just imagine if all Colorado kids could grow up and look back on their early, formative education years as I can, the foundation of what they've now built. It hurts me that not all can, and that there is a butterfly effect on their educational future. Whereas mine was spread out nicely before me, for far too many, who are still too young to articulate this need, it seems like a mountain they can't take on alone. Well-meaning parents will do their best, but often don't even realize that they can't make up for a lost year of education.
And that brings me to another pivotal point in what I'm seeing as a crisis as an experienced kindergarten teacher. It's not the kindergarten of our youth anymore. The academics have been pushed down over time. What I did in first grade is what I now teach in kindergarten. Can you imagine a student slipping through the cracks 30 years ago and having no education, academic or socially, completely missing everything taught in 1st grade, and not attending school until they get to 2nd grade, or the modern equivalent of it. And their peers are reading, writing, counting to 100 and adding and subtracting, along with entering play, navigating friendships, asking for a turn and sharing successfully? And the list goes on and on, I know too much.
And when this child, by no fault of their own in their young life, may not even have the fine motor skills to know how to correctly grip a pencil to write, or the phonemic awareness to apply to the spelling of anything they might want to try to put on paper. Even if they have had any level of more informal education, from parents or otherwise, many are without a doubt entering the race leagues behind their peers. Remember that resilience that built up over time for me? How would it ever be built? Remember how academics and social situations weren't difficult for me, as I'd been socially and academically prepared in one of my most crucial formative early education years? How would this child catch up? How would they not get discouraged? Detached over time? Be tempted to act out in order be labeled 'a bad kid' instead of 'a dumb kid'?. How would it not become an overwhelming prophecy for many innocent children? Don't they deserve an even playing field? And more importantly, how can you and I even that playing field? Take the financial burden off parents who can't afford it? Support school districts in making it financially possible?
It might seem like it couldn't be as simple as fully-funded full-day kindergarten, but after teaching over 200 children this age, including my own dear daughter, I can assure you that there is not only a dire need, but also that this is a smart move strategically to rise up to this need of our most precious future citizens.
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