One size does not fit all in an early childhood classroom. The best preschools offer a developmentally appropriate curriculum flexible enough to meet the needs of all students. We preschool teachers must be ready for everybody. Ready for children just taking those first tentative steps away from the security of home. These children may not know an A from a 3 and that’s fine. They’ll learn, but first they have to transition from “home kid” to “preschool kid.” They have to dry their tears, move away from the waving window, and become part of the classroom community.
And then there are the children who stroll into the classroom as if they’ve always been there. They learned to recognize the alphabet and numbers through 20 at home, and are ready to build on those skills. We preschool teachers had better be ready for them, too.
One thing is certain about all preschoolers, however. They want to play. Those children who are seemingly ready to start reading? Make no mistake, they are still 3 or 4-years old with the same interests as their colleagues who are just learning the difference between an A and a 3. They want to be down on the floor pulling blocks out of the bin and creating their own world.
They want to stand at the stove preparing a dinner of pasta and peas to serve their teachers who will dutifully and with much appreciation “eat” every morsel.
They want to swaddle baby dolls and build their school family.
They want to settle in at the table and write their version of “Hamlet” with primary pencils and chunky crayons.
They want to sprawl in front of the book display, pulling out book after book to “read” again and again.
The bottom line is they want to drive a big chunk of their school day in a direction of their choosing. In a preschool with a thoughtfully designed curriculum and environment, the direction is always worthwhile and the teacher is always that little driver’s unobtrusive co-pilot.