And so, this week marks the last week of school for my Sylvia Clare. For those who have read my (Yiola) FDK blog posts you may recall that this year my daughter, Sylvia Clare, attended school for the very first time. As a four year I could only imagine what thoughts and ideas ran through her mind as she entered the big institution of schooling.
Here is an image of Sylvia Clare on her very first day:
This little human being, with only four years experience in the world, ventured alone into an unfamiliar place with strangers for full day school. How grand is that expectation? I imagine in the mind of my Sylvia Clare it was a significant challenge. And yet, from the first day there was calm and there was success. What is success you ask? From my (a parent’s) perspective it is this: a child who is confident and competent in her environment; a child who is provided opportunities to play, explore, inquire and make decisions about their own learning; and success is when a child is able to manage her day in ways that are comfortable, productive, and enjoyable. This is what full day learning in Junior Kindergarten (JK) means to me. Through this, I have witnessed Sylvia Clare develop skills: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and of course literacy skills.
When Sylvia Clare began JK she could not spell her name, she was just learning her ABCs and 123s, and there was no experience with print. Reading was one dimensional, where mommy or daddy read to her. Somehow, by the end of JK, things now are quite different.
The following example sums up just how much Sylvia Clare has changed. The other other day she stumbled across some of my old school supplies from back when I was a teacher. She helped herself to a journal book and immersed herself in activity. Independently, this is what she produced:
While I was thrilled to see that YES Sylvia Clare understands the beginnings of language, how to write, how to spell, how to produce a sentence, how to tell a story!!! This experience told me so much more about my daughter as a learner: the initiative, confidence, risk, and desire “to do” were even more thrilling for me to witness.
From this simple experience I see the work that has gone into bringing Sylvia Clare to this point. I wish to tell her teachers this:
Thank you for fostering a learning environment that is safe, secure and open for exploration.
Thank you for encouraging Sylvia Clare to speak and to be heard.
Thank you for fostering friendships and encouraging inclusive play in the classroom and the playground.
Thank you for modelling respect and kindness and expecting that from all children in your school.
Thank you for teaching phonemic awareness and for providing direct instruction.
Thank you for listening to Sylvia Clare’s stories about “Old Man’s Lake” and asking her questions.
Thank you for encouraging her sense of invention and creation (I have more cereal boxes than I know what to do with!)
Thank you for using your smart board in ways that enhance students’ awareness of technology and literacy.
Thank you for developing fun games that helped her develop her literacy and numeracy awareness.
Thank you for encouraging Sylvia Clare to sound out words and to try reading books on her own.
Thank you for instilling a love of reading.
Thank you for teaching in ways that are so transparent that Sylvia Clare is able to come home and tell me exactly what she did in school. In fact, she clearly instructs me on what I need to do to have her prepared for the next day!
Thank you for fostering a love and care for the environment. We will be sure to visit “Woody” (the tree) in our local forest.
Thank you for the consistent routines and systematic communication with parents.
Thank you for celebrating my child and every child in the class.
Thank you for caring so deeply about my Sylvia Clare. Your care is evident in her development.
Thank you for working with me to ensure Sylvia Clare is happy, secure, confident, and learning.
You see, teaching literacy is not only about teaching phonics or repetitive worksheets as the proven way to acquire language… or whether direct instruction is proven to increase awareness… without the thoughtful consideration and doing of all of the above, that is the “teaching of children”, something is missing in learning development.
And so here we are, the final week of JK. It has been a remarkable year for Sylvia Clare.
Here is Sylvia Clare during her last week of school with her teachers:
In the image immediately above, I see comfort and trust. I see calm and happiness. I see a readiness to enjoy a day filled with learning. In my teacher education classes I work hard to share with student teachers the nuances of teachers’ work in order to understand that these elements of school are not innate or simply exist. These elements are crafted with thoughtful consideration on the part of teachers. Our research on literacy teacher educators and on classroom teachers over the years demonstrates these nuances well.
This post present one story, of one child, in her early years schooling experience. It is not the experience of every child. It is, in my opinion, an exemplary experience because of the teachers. We know from research that teachers’ work is the leading factor of student achievement: what teachers plan, do, say, and develop within a classroom often dictates how children experience school and learn. Sylvia Clare’s teachers are an incredible team — and we also know from the research on early years classrooms that the relationship between the teams of teachers is paramount to the success of the program. Teachers, partnerships, pedagogy, and content all come together to form a young child’s experience.
In my final FDK blog post, I want to say, Thank You teachers for bringing all of the above together, for making Sylvia Clare’s (and my) first year of schooling such a wonderful experience. Wishing all teachers and parents and children a wonderful and safe summer holiday.