Lessons from Preschool

Many people have read the “ABCs to ACTs” pearl of wisdom about pre-school children. If you have not, here it is:

I am in preschool. I was not built to sit still, keep my hands to myself, take turns, be patient, stand in line, or keep quiet all of the time. I need motion, novelty, adventure, and to engage the world with my whole body. Let me play (Trust me, I’m learning).”

I know teachers who have this posted in their classroom. Like so many things that we encounter in education, it’s all a matter of degree. How much is too much and when has one reached the point of too much of a good thing? As we in education struggle with budget cuts, standardized testing and a plethora of issues, I am continually aware of the mantra of many school boards and administrators throughout this country that we need to prepare our students to compete on a global level in math and science, economics and the colossal new learning tool …TECHNOLOGY. Any program that infringes upon our students becoming the best technocrats on the face of the earth will be sacrificed by technology.

Perhaps one could be critical of the use of terminology to describe the phenomenon of cutting programs that do not advance technology. I think not. The budget slashing that goes on every year in our schools is very seldom directed at technology and the proponents of these cuts are in many instances very like sacred supporters. So what does this have to do with the quote about preschool? It has to do not only with preschool but middle school, high school and to some degree college and adulthood.

It is not my intent to go into a long treatise on the subject at hand, but suffice for me to give a couple of illustrations from my experience to illuminate what I am striving to convey. When I was in high school our choral director was fond of saying that if you took time throughout your life to make music in some manner every day, your life would be better for it, that you would be happier, more successful in other constructive areas of life and generally better off. If you sing a song whether at church or in your bathroom, if you play an instrument you will be better off and you will be smarter. Yes, smarter. Not from studying math alone but from studying math in conjunction with singing a song. My husband talks about a football coach who instilled in his players all sorts of positive qualities such as a coordinated effort to achieve a common goal, sportsmanship and sacrifice for the good of the whole among others.

Returning again to the preschool quote, not just in preschool but throughout our children’s’ education there are opportunities to learn from “play” that the arts and humanities and athletics bring to the table that cannot be replicated by strict “book learnin” if you will. The “need for motion, novelty, adventure, and to engage the world with one’s whole body” does not end after preschool but stays with us into adulthood. Educators and politicians need to recognize this as budgets, programs and curricula are formulated.

Dr. Carolyn Koos