Thursday, March 29, 2012

What Do You Hope Your Child Learns in Kindergarten?

That question took me by surprise.  I found it on a page in my son’s kindergarten registration packet.  It was part of a set of questions to provide personal information about the student that might be of interest to his future teacher.

At first, thoughts of letters, numbers, colors, and such came to mind.  But what did I really want.  I thought about reading.  I would be pleased if he came out of kindergarten reading, but I don’t think it would alarm me if he didn’t learn that skill for another year.  He can already count and do simple addition, I would appreciate some additional number skills.  He’s working on manual dexterity, so a little writing would help.

I couldn’t find a way to really express in a short space what I hoped that he learns in kindergarten.  In some ways, I want to be surprised. 

Maybe he can learn something that I haven’t yet thought of.  I hope that his teacher is able to provide the flexibility to allow my son exposure to some things that he wouldn’t otherwise get at home.  I bet she (or he) brings a unique background and experience into the classroom along with every other student there.  I hope that teacher finds ways to share those experiences with my son.  I hope that teacher finds ways to allow each of them to share these unique experiences with each other.

My son has quite an imagination and at this stage of life, quite an infatuation with superheroes.  I hope that his teacher can appreciate his enthusiasm and find ways to let him express his imagination. 

I hope that my son learns about conflict and compromise in kindergarten.  I want him to have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.  I want him to experience frustration and learn the satisfaction of working through it effectively.  I want my son to learn what it means to remain an individual in the presence of a community without sacrificing the essence of either.

I hope that my son learns that sometimes you must do what you’re told.  I hope that he learns the difference between being made to do something you don’t like and being made to do something wrong.  I want him to learn how to appropriately express his opinion about both.  I want him to learn when to stand out from the crowd and when to fit in.

Resiliency is important.  I hope that his teacher allows him and his friends to work out their differences and sees an occasional disagreement as a good thing.  I hope that he doesn’t get bullied, but I want a teacher that knows how let him get pushed just enough that he learns to stand up for himself.

I want him to learn independence.  At home we do 1:1, and that means adults to children, not computers to learners.  At school I expect something closer to 1:15, maybe 1:20.  I hope that he learns to keep up with his stuff and maybe even look out for his buddy from time to time.  I want him to learn that in this world things happen because people make them happen, not that we sit back and wait for others to do.

I want him to continue to learn how to be himself.  I hope that he gets an opportunity to reflect and work alone.  I hope that he gets a chance to work toward a goal with one or two others.  I hope that he gets a chance to work with his class to complete a project or task.

I hope that he learns about culture.  I don’t care which ones as much as I hope that it is something taught with passion and authenticity.

I hope that he learns about history.  I don’t care which facts as much as I hope that he understands a sense of the past and how it affects the present and future.

I hope that he learns about science.  I don’t care which specialty as much as I hope he learns to question with curiosity the natural world he lives in and ways to understand it through observation, inquiry, and investigation.

I hope he is exposed to the arts, that he is given the chance to appreciate the expression of others that aren’t found in his day-to-day life.

When I sit down with his teacher in November to discuss his progress I hope that she (or he) doesn’t consume my fifteen minutes with numbers and charts.  I really don’t want to see sets of benchmarks and my child’s achievement.  I expect his teacher will be a professional.  I hope they will tell me “your son is doing well” if he is and if not I hope they will tell me what we need to emphasize at home. 

I hope that his teacher shows me evidence of expression, of competence, of compassion, and curiosity.  I want to see his creations, his positive influence on the climate of the classroom, what his teacher has learned from three months of interacting with a new set of students.

Above all else, when I send my child into this school, when I give up my control over his safety, security, and nuture for seven hours a day, when I entrust that which I love above all else in this world, this is what I hope he learns:

You are loved and cared for and appreciated for who you are and who you may become. 

I’m not sure if there is a standard or test for that one.


  1. I've often told my students (in high school and now in college) that everything you need to know about life you learned in kindergaren.

  2. I want my kids to learn the love of learning in a way that is different from what I offer at home.

  3. Hey anonymous, you should write a book about that, sounds like a great idea.

    John, exactly, otherwise why bother sending them away from home to learn.

  4. It appears that none of the above contributors have spent a day in a Queens NYC kindergarten room. We are little work factories, and I do not mean that in a positive way. Gone are the life long important socialization skill and creativity building activities.

    It is Teachers College Readers and Writers Workshop Model, executed in the architecture of the mini lesson throughout, Fundations, NYC literacy and math tasks, running record reading assessments, math assessments, Teachers College Assessment Pro., all coupled with conference log notes. These are commentary written while working one on one with each child, twice a month in all subjects.
    Along with this are strategy lessons, small group instruction, planning based on the data culled from the conference log notes. Oh, lest I forget this is done with 25 non English speaking children, or English speaking children depending on the locale.

    This is not the finger paint and piano music kindergarten that you knew, thrived and blossomed in. This is the new corporate Common Core Standards based new world of Bloomberg, Murdoch, and Duncan.

    It is very frightening. Try being 4 or 5 in this classroom.

    A Queens kindergarten teacher

    1. You speak truth, Queens. Common Core/Whore is taking over. Pearson rules all.

    2. That was almost heart breaking being that I am an Elementary Education student in school now. Not to mention they are bring Common Core to the state I attend college.

  5. Now if we could fit all of that on the two lines provided, life would be good :)

  6. Great article. I have to fill out the same form for my child every year. He is now four and loves superheros and wants to save the world!