I'll be the first to admit that on my "off" days, I indulge in regular sessions of therapeutic cookie-baking, or eat far too many peanut M-n-M's and drink unnecessarily large servings of foo-foo coffee, thankfully affordable crutches er, "treats." Mrs. Stouffer or Ronald McDonald cooks dinner on those days while the Julia Child in me is down for the count. I ignore the phone, make sure the "No Solicitors, Please" sign is still firmly posted to my front door, draw the curtains, and climb into jammies early.
It's the plaid flannel set today folks.
The thought struck me as colleagues and I discussed how young so many of our students seem to be this year, that so many classroom management difficulties would be solved by states and school districts implementing a no-loopholes policy regarding the minimum age of entry for students. Admittedly, I've had students who are academically ready for kindergarten as older four year olds or very young five year olds, but very few have been socially and behaviorally ready when their parents have chosen to push their enrollment.
It's week four of school, and we haven't gotten into a smooth rhythm or predictable routine because I'm still having to intervene and halt instruction due to less-mature students' lack of restraint, follow through, and social problem solving abilities. Granted, kindergarten is the perfect place to develop and fine tune those skills, but with students who start kindergarten at a more developmentally appropriate age, that tweaking and fine tuning is more manageable. Why? Because older students are better able to focus for longer periods of time, are more tuned in to the fact that they share their environment with people other than their family, and have had more practice (hopefully) solving problems with words, self management, and calmly seeking out the help of others.
Younger children, especially boys, resort to highly efficient communication styles when interacting with others: it's faster to push, yell, or grab toys away. Why "use your words" or "take turns" when punching a playmate sends the message loud and clear that you're the boss, you want that toy, and you want it now? With state standards, national assessments and the expected/required mastery of skills on the forefront, why are states and districts purposely setting themselves (and their students) up to fail by hurrying younger and younger children through the system, forcing developmentally inappropriate disciplinary practices and tones to be established and used, and creating resentment of teachers and schools by the very children (and their parents) into whom we are supposed to be inspiring a lifelong love of learning? If little Johnny or Jane has toileting problems, can't keep his/her hands off of other students, yells "I gotta PEE" at every inopportune moment, can't or won't transition between activities, actively interrupts the learning of others, sleeps through instruction, or demands an inordinate amount of the teacher's attention (successfully taking time away from a majority of the other students and lowering the teaching time that is supposed to be alloted to actual instruction of the curriculum), then guess what? Little Johnny or Jane isn't ready for kindergarten and shouldn't be there.
I know kindergarten is cheaper than day care. I know a child's social inexperience can get on a parent's or babysitter's last nerve. I know some states enjoy promoting the Keeping-Up-With-the-Joneses game amongst the middle and upper-middle classes. And I know that parents' egos, insecurities, fear for future opportunity, and even sincere desire to do what is "best" for their child can cause them to mistakenly push their children instead of holding them close and nurturing them for a bit longer. Parental guidance is effective and essential, and in my opinion shouldn't be so easily abdicated by mothers and fathers, eagerly supported by districts all-too-eager to help them cut the apron strings long before they should be severed.
Kindergarten will still be there next year. Your child will be better prepared to handle the mandated rigors of today's kindergarten curriculum and subsequent school expectations when s/he can wait for a turn, is willing to regulate voice volume, feels comfortable attempting new tasks without needing or wanting constant adult approval (teachers have to be shared, after all), and feels more inclined to behave safely and with a sympathetic/empathetic demeanor.
Simply put, it's not my job to teach your child to not throw tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants: that's your job. It's not my job to spend most of my day acting as a human shield between your child, who likes to throw scissors, and all of her seatmates who are trying to cut, color, and glue their "Ss" page. It's not okay for your child to yell and hoot every day during Brain Break while other students sleep for four weeks straight, and there is no appropriate consequence, bribe, or threat that I should have to use for a year to help your child "learn" how to be considerate of others: that's YOUR job.
Test-lovers and school-data-gurus, catch a clue and and do it quickly: not much essential growth and mastery can take place when a majority of the year is spent trying to reign in children from their natural dispositions, forcing their developmentally appropriate round bodies through the square holes better suited for older students. We don't let children drive until a certain age, we don't let them vote or drink until a certain age. What's so wrong with allowing them to BE exactly their age in the most appropriate location possible? Kindergarten isn't that place for four year olds, and like it or not, it's not that place for some five year olds either.