The directions clearly stated, “Color the triangles blue.” Then why in the world did Karson—one of our five-year-old twin granddaughters—leave the triangles blank and color the rectangles red? I mean, my wife (a retired master elementary teacher), her parents, and even her grandpa have been getting her “ready to learn when entering kindergarten” since some six months before birth. Was she going to be doomed to wherever Kentucky kids not ready for kindergarten go? Our local school system sends elementary kids to alternative programs. Is that where she was headed? Isn’t she, as I have long thought, gifted and talented (and very cute)? When asked about this horrendous mistake, she smiled—Did I mention that both she and her sister are very, very cute?—and responded, “I think rectangles are more interesting than triangles, and you know I love red!”
Can I be heretical and suggest that whether Karson is deemed ready to learn or not may have as much to do with her teacher and school as it does with her? To assert that schools have any responsibility for kindergarten performance these days is unpopular. Seemingly everyone in Kentucky—state officials, nonprofit leaders, local politicians, and educators—are bent on dividing five-year-olds into “ready or not!” No gradations. No gray areas. You are either ready to learn, or apparently your parents have failed badly, and your future is set in concrete even though you are only five.
And I understand and celebrate the zest and zeal to prepare young learners. As a policy person, I agree. As a thirty-year veteran of public school administration, I agree. As a grandpa who has used seemingly every “guide to getting that kid ready,” read a million books to our five grandkids, and practiced those fine motor skills to death, I agree. Everyone needs to do everything they can to get kids ready. I hope Sunday school teachers and soccer coaches see connections to their roles in kids’ lives and kindergarten readiness. I hope that every mom and dad, big sister, older cousin, and grandparent are all over the opportunities that abound to prepare young minds to grown and deepen. Community centers, neighbors, and nonprofits can and should play pivotal roles in our collective drive to prepare every kid to learn.
I get it. I really do.
But here is what I don’t get: Why is no one—no one—ever asking, “Is the kindergarten ready for the kindergartners?” There are a million camps to get those five-year-olds ready for school. But I want to know about camps to get schools ready for the five-year-olds. I haven’t seen mayors or state leaders asking about that side of the equation. Just as there is an abundance of research about what the youngsters need to be able to learn, there is just as much research out there about what schools need to do to be ready for the kids, especially the youngsters who are not deemed ready by the politically correct “kindergarten readiness” machine in this state.
I hope that the drumbeat for five-year-old readiness for kindergarten continues. We cannot afford to have a single five-year-old—much less half of that population—arriving at school unprepared to reach their potential as learners.
But let the drumbeat at least begin for kindergarten class readiness for those five year olds. We also cannot afford a single kindergarten classroom that is not developmentally appropriate for the needs of every little boy and girl who walks through that door.
Interested in learning how to assess whether your kindergartner’s classroom is responsive to the needs of five-year olds? Read these articles to find out more.
- Characteristics of Great Kindergarten Classrooms, Scholastic Magazine
- Where We Stand on School Readiness, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
- Successful Transition to Kindergarten: The Role of Teachers & Parents, Early Childhood News
As the Scholastic Magazine article asserts, every parent should know what you should see, hear, and feel when you enter a kindergarten classroom.
Kindergartner readiness? Absolutely. Kindergarten readiness? Absolutely, too!