“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey
My philosophy is quite simple. Yes, students must meet the standards and they will, but play is the work of childhood. It is the journey, the curiosity sparked, and the passion ignited to learn and grow that feeds true progress.
My goal for kindergarten is two fold:
- To hold each child in their best light, teaching the whole-child.
- To encourage life-long learning for the sake of bettering ourselves, forming and answering questions, and informing others.
What is the focus of kindergarten?
- Socio-Emotional Development: Socio-Emotional Development is crucial in kindergarten and provides all the legwork for cognitive development to flourish. Cognitive Development happens through play, and kindergarten is about making play more than toys and games. Play looks different as children age, and play can be reading a book, play with words, silly sentences, learning sight words, and exploring the idea of addition, subtraction, and skip counting. This process is the act of moving away from egocentrism to learning how to be a part of a community, and building healthy relationships with others.
- Cognitive Development: Children’s Cognitive Development, which happens naturally through play and other interactions with peers, is what fosters next once the social piece is strongly supported. I provide more pointed activities that target and bolster reading, writing, spelling, math, and science skills. Some skills will require practice, repetition, and effort in order to acquire them. The idea is to strive for children to constantly be thinking about the “why” questions. Why is it important to do something or know something? What value does it hold for them? Cognitive development is exploring and constructing knowledge, it’s not pouring it into their minds for the purpose of regurgitation.
- Physical Development: Physical Development is very important at this age and gross motor skills children should demonstrate between 5 and 6 years old are skipping, catching and throwing a ball, hopping and balancing on one foot, riding a small bike, and walking down stairs alternating their feet. They’re confident in finely tuned skills such as running and climbing. Fine motor skills include writing most letters and some words by May, using a pincer grip. They can copy/draw basic shapes, and enjoy drawing self-portraits with increasing amounts of detail and background. They have also chosen their left or right hand as the dominant one (although studies suggest children may take up to 7 years old to choose a dominant hand). These abilities help children not only in learning to write but also in reading and thinking. Research shows that small-muscle movements build synaptic connections in the brain (click here for article in which some of the information above was written.)
It is by helping to foster this intrinsic drive and curiosity in children to learn about the world around them that we see incredible leaps and bounds in students’ comprehension and memory. The curriculum I teach is based on a few theorists, such as Vygotsky for his theory on social curriculum and scaffolding through the zone of proximal development. The overall philosophy is that kids are really encouraged to explore at their own pace through play, and the teachers are there to help them explore and support them when needed. This is also shared by the Reggio Emilia Approach, I ascribe to, which was developed in the 1940s in the town of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, near where I studied pedagogia dei bambini (teaching young children) for a year. After World War II, the community, along with school teacher Loris Malaguzzi, came together to develop schools that would help children become better citizens.
I firmly believe children are citizens, and it is our job to show them what social justice can look like. It starts as soon as they grasp what a community is and that journey begins on the first day of school. That’s why this approach resonates with my core values as a teacher. Reggio Emilia schools are known for a project-based approach, which many preschool, TK, and K programs have borrowed, including Discovery Charter School 2, Eliot Pearson Children’s School, and Cambridge Friends School (where I worked!)
However, the structure of how I teach is deeply rooted in Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which means building on the different types of strengths students possess in order to incorporate multiple access points (art, writing, reading, math, science, spirituality, physical skills, etc) in the units for students to truly connect and invest in their learning. It is only through this lens of fully experiencing learning from multiple angles that students can realize the true depth of knowledge, beyond the need to reproduce it in short term use, rather to carry it as a foundation for knowledge to come.