Thursday, January 6, 2011

Professor Goes to Preschool

I did not go to preschool.  And as research shows, it has seriously impaired my academic success.

Or maybe not.

I sometimes think that my desire to get my PhD was a subconscious effort to overcome those lost two years of formal schooling, but even my advanced degree has not taught me what it means to be a preschooler - or to teach them.

I began writing this blog in an effort to think hard about the various roles I play in life and to help find a balance between the working me and the mom.  Next week, I will blur the lines that I have built between these two selves.  On Tuesday, I am finally going to preschool. 

My three-year-old children amaze me daily as they grow and learn, sponging up information, concepts, and language.  They surprise me so often, and so many times their father and I look at each other incredulously, asking "did you teach him that?"  or "did you know she could do that?"  Somehow these two beings are becoming literate right under my nose, and I'm not entirely sure how I am facilitating this process.

In my teacher-education courses, where I work with middle and high school teachers, I lecture on the foundations of adolescent literacy, which begin in infancy.  Theoretically I know a lot about what young children can do and the rate at which they should progress in language, reading, and writing development.  However, my own children have made me realize that I have very little practical knowledge about how to teach them.  When they are teens, during the times that they allow me to help, I will know what to do, how to begin, and how to troubleshoot.  But I do not have those same strategies at my fingertips for them now.

As a teacher of literacy education, I think it is important for me to understand a range of ages and abilities.  I have over 12 years of experience teaching adolescents and adults.  I have spent extended periods of time working with elementary and middle school students.  I feel comfortable in recommending strategies to teachers of K-16 pupils.  But I have realized that I am missing a piece of my pedagogical knowledge.  I do not have any concept of how to teach preschoolers, children who are ripe to learn and easy to love for their innocence.  And I'm not entirely sure what skills they should learn or how a preschool setting helps them develop literacy skills that will, as research shows, give them a boost academically.

So beginning next week, I am going to explore the world of preschool.  Following my kids to their preschool, which has generously allowed me to enter as an apprentice teacher, I will observe, participate, and learn alongside the 2, 3, and 4 year olds.  With the support of my university chairperson and dean, I will focus a portion of my professional responsibilities this semester on this professional development endeavor.  And while I work with my university students on Monday nights, discussing theory, research, and practice, on Tuesday mornings, I will go to preschool, where I know that my mind will be just as challenged.


  1. Love it Kristen!!! You always have such a wonderful way to look at the ways of twins and preschoolers too. I look forward to hearing more as you further your education!

  2. This is awesome - thank god I have you to ask questions to about subjects such as little ones' literacy! I, like you, will be fine with Eliza when she's a middle schooler, teen, and college girl but I know nothing about what I should be doing for the next 10 years!

    Can't wait to hear more about it! xx