I love to ‘noodge’ babies. I have always been a baby ‘noodger’. So far, I think I have been able to give each of my newborn grandchildren their first kiss. They however do not always appreciate the close contact with my old bewhiskered visage. Nonetheless I remain an inveterate baby ‘noodger’.
As an educator I am a confirmed developmentalist. I employ standard developmental guidelines to plan my curriculum and set goals.
I said once that a national curriculum based on developmentally appropriate guidelines and overseen by well-trained teachers is a good idea. I still say that.
Many people have come out against the rigors of the current iteration of the Common Core 1) as being unrealistic in terms of goals for most children. I agree with that also, but with a caveat.
I am not advocating throwing out the bathwater without first checking to see if a baby is in it. I still think national objectives that are developmentally appropriate and rigorous are a good idea as long as they are not chained to more ridiculous testing mandates.
We need to critically look at how we educate and ensure that every child is supported and given an equitable opportunity to demonstrate their skills. And what’s more, we should see that every teacher is supported, encouraged and . . . listened to.
Teachers have felt for quite some time now that there was not simply a national campaign against their profession but simultaneously a personal attack upon their goals and motives. The result has lead to a virtual exodus from the profession. 2)
Much of the problem has been exacerbated by the continual dependance on strict testing mandates. Few teachers see the purpose of this testing as the results do not drive curriculum or provide data that teachers can use on current students. Attempts to correct this were misdirected toward more testing rather than less being attached to the current Common Core.
An article by Sarah Tan on Nola.com 3) warns of still more testing being suggested, this time in the direction of our preschool children. This would be an even greater crime against our children if it were to be enacted thusly. But there may be a glimmer of hope. On further analysis of the two instruments referenced by Tan I saw many flashing warning lights but a few things I actually might like.
The first example I looked at, The Teachstone product seemed to be organized as a developmental checklist, filled out by teachers using their observations rather than separate artificial testing. The second one, The Teaching Strategies Gold, immediately put me off with its goal driven name and appears to be highly organized as a curriculum for young children to be implemented and assessed.
As I was not buying either product I was unable to get a look at the corpus of each so I am going here on my impressions of their published descriptions in my personal assessments of their usefulness. If I am correct in my facile analysis though, I would definitely be much more a dweller in the camp of the former than the latter. As a teacher I kept records of my students for years by simply using checklists and samples of work and these were always sufficient for my purposes.
In order to assess we need only keep portfolios that are maintained on each student which reflect that child’s growth in a given year not their progress compared to others. However, if we were to use the system I have championed it would demand rethinking how we place children in schools by looking at developmental checklists to ascertain readiness. This in turn would necessitate a well-supported national drive to provide adequate preschool for all who need it, including well-trained, early childhood-focused educators. It might mean staggering entrance to school or changing the role of teachers to better serve our young learners needs. In other words it would involve our entire nation committing to support public education, families and children.
I believe the solution is simple — let teachers teach, support them and their students, do not set artificial goals that everyone is supposed to meet, measure each student’s growth against themselves individually and celebrate successes; do not denigrate failures.
Oh yeah, and keep ‘noodging’ babies.