This is another really loaded one. The question could be extended to what is missing from education today, but that answer would be never ending.
So teachers. I got my teaching credential in 2004 from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I have a single subject credential in biological science and I can also teach any freshman level science class. I had to take a 3 part test called the CSET to show mastery of my field. Needless to say the test is really hard, long and certainly not a measure of what I know or can teach. Not to mention expensive. I could at any time take another test and collect different areas that I could teach. Teaching however is an art, it requires knowing where your students are and taking them with you on a journey. Stopping along the way to look at sites, take pictures, but always going somewhere, together, with mutual respect. The best brains in their fields cannot perform this drama every day, 180 days a year, 6 times a day.
My course work in my credential program was interesting, but severely lacking in actual teaching pedagogy and the most important thing there is, classroom management. This one thing is the reason why a huge percentage of teachers leave the field within the first 5 years. It is a skill that takes time to learn and really can only be done once a year. My dad used to tell me, you can always loosen the reins throughout the year, but you cannot tighten them. This is the truest statement ever. Period. A group of 30 pubescent children will notice your weaknesses and use them to constantly push the boundaries. In addition to being in 6 classes that have little relevance to their lives and most will be in remedial classes leaving no room for electives. Being 10 or so years out, I can’t even remember what I learned or the classes I had. I do remember it was a lot of left brain action and not a light of right brain strengthening.
Now had I wanted to also add a multiple subject teaching credential I would have needed to take 2 more classes, one on teaching reading and a class on teaching in a self contained classroom, one that throughout the day will go from subject to subject. This would allow me to teach basically anywhere in our current system from grades K through 12 in California. I could also do this now, but the coolest thing is my preparation for teaching preschool will give me access to grades K-3 too.
All I need to do to maintain my credential is pay California 35 dollars every 5 years. Thats it. As you can see above, I am due in 2018.
Thats it. Not one mention of any classes on child development. How children learn, how to take a subject, break it down and how to teach it to others. Nothing on the four aspects of children; their cognitive development, emotional and social development, language development or physical development. We don’t need that. Lets leave that for the preschool teachers who don’t even have the opportunity to reach all kids. Because hey, kids can just do whatever till 5 and then be ready to do it all- read, write, listen, get along with others, deal with their emotions, etc. This is not to say that parents can’t to a great job giving their children these experiences, but lots of parents both need to be in the workforce and can’t afford for one to stop working for 5 years. Sometimes even with both working they can not even afford high-quality preschool. It is a crime.
Why are child development classes so important you ask? I’ll tell you. Just because people grow up into adults, does not mean they know how to raise or teach children. I am not trying to criticise anyone, I know parents work tirelessly to raise their children, their hearts. And most teachers work really hard, always modifying what they are doing, thinking of twelve ways to explain the same thing. Constantly rewriting the itinerary on the journey, making it relevant to the lives and desires of their students.
I took my first child development class to prepare for my possible future shift in career while I was teaching at a continuation high school. Not alternative, like I thought, just doing the same thing with kids who have not been successful in our regular comprehensive high schools or middle schools. So there I was taking this class learning about children and looking at 15-18 year olds all day and thinking they need to know this. Not just take this plastic crying baby and pretend to tend to its needs in this elective class, but everyone should be learning this. Period. This is the curriculum, along with cooking vegetables, what a farm looks like, challenging the status quo because this is America and meditation.
So I designed a unit where I taught my students child development. We talked about how a baby grows, how they develop in the 4 areas and how important our adult interactions are with these little whole humans. We watched videos, read articles on the importance of reading and we thought about our own childhoods. This unit build on a unit about how their own 2 sphered brain works and multiple intelligences. Most of my students came away with a greater understanding of themselves, identified some toxic stress they experiences as a child, understood the time and work of raising children and stated that they wanted to be both emotionally and financially ready before they have children. Wow.
I have also been in countless early childhood education classes where someone has said, “now I understand my children better.” How powerful that statement is. I also have tools to use in raising my own children and I better understand how to talk to them. How is this not something that is required of all people who help us raise our children? Why are we racing to the top? Let us face it, we cannot compete with other countries who place more value and respect on education. We need to race to understand how we can best observe each child and assist them in reaching their full potential. We need to race to the outdoors and allow children to explore and wonder. We need to race to get costumes and puppets, things that allow for pretend play. Then we need to give children time to play, uninterrupted. This can work way into elementary grades if we do it right, if we see the value and importance of it.
Children need to play. We need to nurture their whole brains, observe them and ask probing questions. We should be promoting creativity and innovation not thoughtless regurgitation of already outdated facts and information. We need to be equipped with the best information on how to build the relationships that will allow this self directed education to flourish. These relationships, both parent/child and teacher/child, are the key to our future and our planets.
What do you think? Is knowing about child development important for all educators? Is preschool important for brain growth?