I registered my “baby” for preK last week. She will probably attend her preK classes in the same place as her preschool classes; so preK will not be a terribly traumatic step for her. However, registering her for preK, putting her in the care of the public school system, is a traumatic step for me.
I am a proponent of play-based curricula. I think play needs to be a bigger part of the curriculum throughout the educational cycle—all the way through college. During my experience as a college professor, I observed that my most successful students were the ones with the rich imaginations, the ones who weren’t afraid to play with an idea, the ones who could freely ask “what would happen if…” People learn through play, especially children, and effective educational systems develop those imaginative play and inquiry skills.
So during the orientation session, I had no concerns about a curriculum labeled as “play-based”. I was rather relieved that Milton had the good sense to choose such a curriculum. But one thing did stick with me, the quote from Harmony principal, Jeanne Smith, “it takes eleven positives to make up for one negative.” She was talking about criticism of children, and how the emphasis of the preK program was on positive interactions between children and staff.
I’ve chewed on that a lot since the orientation, wondering if it wasn’t overkill and then thinking how I react to criticism, even the most constructive kind and especially the other kind.
I wandered into the hall and studied a picture that hangs on the wall, a picture of a six-year-old girl with a couple of front teeth missing. My mother loved that picture taken of me by someone who, at that time, I idolized. Every time Mom would come across that picture in a box of old photos she would retell the story of that picture—as she remembered it; then she would launch retelling into a series of idyllic memories stirred up by the picture.
To this day, when I look at the picture, I see a little girl pushing tears to the back and a forced smile to the front, trying hard to please someone whom she loves dearly but who is speaking harshly to her because she isn’t holding a prop for the photo correctly. I remember clearly that feeling of having been yelled at and wanting to be anywhere but there and have the whole picture-taking ordeal over. As that little girl stared out at me from the collage of family photos, I thought, “Jeanne Smith is right”.
One criticism can last a really long time. I’m glad I ended the egg-coloring photo session early, before uttering any harsh words, ended it early when everybody was still having fun. I caught myself this time.
I think that if I’m going to be ready for kindergarten, I need to spend a little more time with that toothless six-year-old in the picture on the wall, learning how to guide and correct with positive interactions. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be discipline and time outs and consequences for actions and poor judgment in our house, but not holding a prop the way a family photographer can’t articulate is not something worth yelling about. I will watch the cutting criticism and personal commentary, and do my best to make sure my daughter knows she’s loved and valued and worth every minute of my time.
© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.