It has been a time of transition. Of growing up and moving forward. Of new places and new experiences. Of new teachers and new friends.

The transition to kindergarten has not been entirely smooth. Despite years spent in a full-day preschool, the kindergarten environment is… different. More kids, fewer teachers. More work, less play. More waiting, less fun.

Some roughness in the transition is to be expected, of course. The shift from a play-based, nurturing environment to a focus on curriculum, benchmarks, evaluation would be rough under the best of circumstances. And these are not the best circumstances. There are 25 kids in each class, with one teacher and no aide. This seems to be about average in our school system, but that doesn’t make it okay. It means some kids are being pushed too hard, and some kids are bored. Some kids have never been in any preschool program – they need to learn how to line up, how to raise their hands, wait their turns. Some kids do not know how to hold a pencil or write their names. And others are reading and doing math problems. With 25 students, one teacher – no matter how experienced – can’t meet each child where they are, as individuals. There is, by necessity, some grouping, pushing, waiting. It is not – cannot be – a system of individualized learning.

I don’t know how much of our rough patch is simply a response to the challenge of transition itself – of newness and settling. How much is best handled through perseverance and cheerfulness, on getting through each day and thinking it will get easier and easier. On pushing through when something is hard – even if it’s the transition and not the work itself. Or, whether this really is too much. That even at it’s best, it’s not enough. That the crying and clinging and transition challenges are the warning signs that this is not the place for us.

My wish for my children – and for each child in their classes – is to be met where they are, nurtured and encouraged. Challenged and pushed to achieve their best – whatever that is. For some kids, that may be learning how to be away from home, how to follow instructions, how to write their letters. For some kids, that may be reading or writing stories, doing math problems or science experiments.

I don’t claim that my kids are geniuses, that they need special treatment or special schools. They need what every kid needs – to be met where they are, to be challenged and encouraged, supported and nurtured. And right now, they’re being let down.

They all are.

2 Responses to Transitions

  1. Dead Bug says:

    Well said, and I could not empathize more. It is disheartening to see Olivia in this sea of small faces (28, to be exact), with one uninspiring teacher and insufficient challenges to keep her interest. Our hope is that, as things settle down and the routine becomes more and more familiar, the teacher will be able to look up from the daily fires she’s putting out and and have a chance to really assess each child’s needs, encourage them where they need help and stretch them where they can handle a challenge. Wishful thinking, perhaps…

  2. Eva says:

    That is so stressful. We feel really lucky this year that the kids are in private K (they don’t make state age cutoffs for public) and so there are 20 kids, 2 teachers and an intern. I’m so sorry that your kids, that so many kids, have to start school with such challenging ratios. I hope that they adjust relatively quickly, and that the school year settles into a pattern.