“What are you thinking?”
It’s a question I find myself asking daily – what are you thinking? At times this question is asked with my hands in the air and a look of loss on my face. Sometimes it is asked as I shake my head in shame. But most days, I ask this question out loud to a group of three and four year olds “Tell me – what are you thinking?” And they tap the sides of their heads and say “Hmmmm – think, think, think!” and the wheels begin turning, the lights come on and soon you can see it – thinking. It’s the core of every solution and every problem – the ability to think and think clearly. As they grow they will call it by different names – concentrate, focus, believe, imagine, learn.
So now I need you to think – did someone teach you how to do that – think? Maybe they should have. I wish someone had taught me – way back in the beginning, before I even started in kindergarten – I wish someone had taught me how to learn.
When you want to drive, you learn how; when you want to swim, you learn how; when you want to read, someone teaches you – you learn how. And when you want to learn how to learn, you go to preschool. Think, think, think!
How to focus (touch your nose and say “focus”).
How to control and understand all those feelings that take over the thinking process.
How to be a good friend.
How to ask questions.
How to find an answer.
How to apply the answer to more questions.
How to love learning.
Think – if someone had taught you all this when you first went to school, wouldn’t everything have been easier?
This, in its best form, is preschool. Pre…School. Pre-learning. Pre-thinking.
So, I ask, with my hands raised and my eye brows up, What are you thinking?
Funding for public preschool have been cut nationwide. And this in light of a presidency that promises education reform starting with preschool. Do I blame the Obama administration? Hardly. I commend them for seeing the necessity of early education.
But what I see now is a game, much like the one I see out on my playgrounds, where something of value – a wanted ball, a shovel – is tossed around from one side to the other, simply to make a game of it. I see “Preschool” being tossed around from side to side as if it were nothing more than a catch phrase. Yet the benefits of preschool are far too serious to be ignored. A recent study by NIEER (www.nieer.org), found the positive effects of students who began in a high quality preschool reaching into learning, graduation rates, emotional adjustments – the very lines of class slowly disappearing as educational gains were made regardless of family backgrounds.
It’s almost Utopian.
It’s what we have always wanted as Americans, isn’t it? – Generations succeeding and continuing to well in all subject areas, families who want the best for their children finding it and watching them succeed.
I see it every day.
I see growth, I hear questions being asked, I see families happy with what is happening in their child and I see graduates, doctors, lawyers, teachers, parents, in the faces of children who couldn’t speak English when they came into the classroom. This is progress, this is hope and this is high quality preschool, nationwide. When I hear of schools cutting early education programs to fund a new football field or combining two small preschool classrooms into one large one to save money, what that says to me is someone isn’t thinking. And maybe, way back, they should have been taught how.