I’m a believer in preschool for 3 and 4-year olds. I wouldn’t have taught it for the last 3+ decades if I wasn’t. I also believe in having realistic expectations for 3 and 4-year old behavior, something you cannot do if you don’t know how preschoolers behave.
How do they behave? They behave like people who have been on the planet only 3 or 4 years. People who only very recently learned the basics of walking upright, drinking from a cup, eliminating in a toilet, and conversing. People who are just learning we share possessions, take turns, and have last names.
Many of these people could not tell you where they live or what their phone number is, yet we expect them to sit down in a classroom and behave like 6 or 7-year olds. When they don’t, we slap on a label of A.D.H.D. and turn to pharmaceuticals. It’s shameful.
I am not denying that some children are extraordinarily challenged, but their numbers, in my experience, are small. I know there are children whose lives have been undeniably improved through thoughtful intervention. The primary goal, however, is to improve the child’s life, not the adults’ lives in that child’s orbit.
These are young children. In fact, they are so young they were only recently toddlers. These are people whose primary method of moving about a room is running. When was the last time you ran across the kitchen to get a napkin? These are people who are as likely to spill a drink all over themselves as they are to successfully deposit it in their bellies. When was the last time you dropped a drink in your lap? And that whole successful toileting thing can come undone in an instant when a zipper gets stuck on the way down. When was the last time you couldn’t get your belt undone in time to . . . well. You know.
Just as every sore throat isn’t strep, every incident of challenging behavior is not A.D.H.D. The overwhelming majority of preschoolers do not need medication to get through the day, they need adults who understand how 3 and 4-year olds operate and who embrace that 3 and 4-year old spirit. If you are not familiar with child development you have no business either teaching in a classroom or developing policy. Too often the policies these uninformed bureaucrats set in place lead straight to the counter at your local pharmacy.
You’re probably wondering what prompted this tirade. It was an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by Professors Stephen P. Hinshaw and Richard M Scheffler called Expand Pre-K, Not A.D.H.D. I would love to see Hogarth-quality preschool available to all children. I don’t want to see more children crushed by the weight of oppressive, inappropriate expectations.