I’m going to be honest–I never thought about this day coming. Really, I didn’t. I knew my son would eventually head off to Kindergarten but woah, that was fast. And now I’m having to deal with all the emotions that go along with it. I mean the Kindergarten informational meeting was enough for me to go home and cry into my glass of wine. Let’s not even talk about watching him climb on the school bus that first day.
However, I am entering this situation with two perspectives: mom and teacher. I’ve been a primary teacher for ten years now and I feel confident that I know the ropes in education pretty well. While I’m not calling myself an expert, I would say I know what great education looks like (the kind that I want provided to my own children). But education in the state of Indiana has drastically changed in the last ten years. And since I’m a teacher, I know the “inside” part of the job that is talked about, but not loud enough to make everyone clearly hear what is going on. While I’m excited for my son to start this new adventure into Kindergarten, there are a few things that are unnerving to the teacher in me.
For example, when I graduated college it was almost impossible to find a teaching job because there were so many teachers and not enough jobs. Now you can almost pick where you want a job. Okay, not exactly, but there is a serious teacher shortage in our state, which as a mom sending her firstborn off to school is scary. So if you are short teachers what does that mean for class sizes? I’m not sure I could handle sending my son into a classroom with thirty five and six year olds that have just one adult that tends to them. Also, where are you going to find teachers to fill these classes and will they be the kind of quality teacher I want teaching my children? Sadly many of my friends that I started teaching with have left the profession, and these were some amazing teachers. But I have to sit back and make people think of the bigger question that really should be asked–why is there a teacher shortage in the first place?
There has been a lot of talk lately about the state testing that schools have to do every year. I remember not taking standardized tests until I was much older–maybe fifth grade. But the testing starts as early as Kindergarten and happens multiple times throughout the year. And here’s the kicker: the outcomes of these tests determine whether these teachers are “highly qualified” or not qualified at all. I can’t tell you how many times my professors in college said to us, “No teacher should ever teach to the test.” While I know that most teachers are still completely mindful of this statement, it breaks my heart in a sense that my son is even subjected to these tests and that his data points are used to determine his teacher’s success.
The expectations of what children should know when entering school has completely changed in the last ten years as well. When I started teaching, Kindergarten was the place where students focused on learning and applying the alphabet throughout the year to help develop early literacy skills.
Now students are expected to know all of the letters and their sounds before they even start school. Don’t get me wrong, I love that my son will be developing as a reader and hopefully continue to grow a love of reading, but it seems that there is so much emphasis on getting children to “meet the benchmark” rather than letting them be little. The expectations for Kindergarten students have transformed quite a bit and become more intense than it ever was before.
Next year my son will start Kindergarten at a Four Star School, which is an amazing achievement for any school in this state to receive. But the number of stars doesn’t matter because you can go anywhere and realize one thing: these teachers in the state of Indiana work hard. And to be honest, most of them are quite tired. I highly recommend you spend some time talking to your child’s teacher this year before the November election because it is your voice that will make a difference in the future of education for Indiana.