Our readings in this module brought forth two important topics for me as a kindergarten teacher. One of these is the impact that early childhood experiences have on children, both at home and at school. Studies such as those done by Woolfolk in 2005 and Slavin in 2003 (as cited in Parkay, 2010) indicate that much of a child’s intellectual development is established by the age of 6. Early learning experiences, especially in Pre- Kindergarten through first grade, are critical to a child’s future learning potential. Additionally, Parkay (2010) stated that the background of students in these early grades is very diverse. While one may argue that this is true for all grades, what makes it so impacting in the primary grades is that the students have not yet had many, if any, common experiences with their peers such as those encountered in school. Boyer states (as cited in Parkay, 2010) that the experiences students have in school builds the foundation upon which all of their future learning will be based. These critical factors must be recognized when considering curriculum and other planned experiences for students in PK through first grade. A child’s preschool, kindergarten, and first grade classroom experiences encompass half of a child’s critical first six years of life. There is so much more at stake in these early years of school than many in the general public realize.
Another important topic we addressed this past week was promoting altruism in the classroom. Most character education curriculums promote behaviors that benefit society as a whole, as well as the individuals themselves. Character traits such as kindness, honesty, sincerity, helpfulness, etc. play a major part in classroom based character education. Robinson and Curry (2010), however, label altruism as “the purest form of caring”. It is intrinsically based on genuine concern for others rather than on the expectation of a reward or the avoidance of punishment.
I recently had a particularly challenging year in my class with many students practicing a “looking out for number one” mode of peer interaction. This resulted in a significant amount of what appeared to be “bullying” behaviors throughout the year. (In kindergarten!) Rightly so, parents were concerned and so was I. Having established good communication with my parent community from the start, our conferences pertaining to this issue were productive, frequent, and respectful of all students. A plan was put in place through which students were recognized when they exhibited behaviors that were caring to their peers, especially if they were having troubles or feeling sad. While things improved by the end of the year, I believe that focusing on promoting altruism from the start of the year might ward off potential conflicts of this type later on.
As I researched topics pertaining to altruism in the classroom I found an article by Pauline Zeece (2009) that described the value of children’s literature in promoting kindness in children. She stated that developmentally appropriate literature provides an engaging way to present common terms that pertain to caring behavior. It also is a good spring board to class discussions on what kindness looks like and how it benefits everyone. Equally important, Zeece gives suggestions for books that lend themselves well to this topic. I have provided reference information for this article below.
Parkay, F., et al. (2010). Curriculum leadership: Readings for developing quality educational programs. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Robinson, E. M. & Curry, J. R. (2010). Promoting altruism in the classroom. In F. Parkay, et al., Curriculum leadership: Readings for developing quality educational programs (pp. 420-426).Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Zeece, P. (2009). Using Current Literature Selections to Nurture the Development of Kindness in Young Children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(5), 447-452.