In particular, the recently-released Kindergarten Addendum has become a focus for me, as I find myself with a number of Kindergarten resource, support and policy projects in my portfolio.
Becoming a parent of twins 12 years ago certainly brought an understanding of the daily life of a Kindergarten educator into the realm of possibility, as I marveled in awe at the wonder and natural curiosity that small people bring to the world as they navigate through the toddler years attempting to make sense of the natural and social fabric that surrounds them...
I'm amazed and impressed by the seamless integration of "assessment" (noticing and naming) and curriculum (program) planning in Kindergarten. With chapter titles like "Play-Based Learning in a Culture of Inquiry" and subheadings like "Co-constructing the Learning Environment", "Thinking about Time and Space", and "The Learning Environment and Beliefs about Children", the 2016 document invites Kindergarten educators to become reflective practitioners and adopt a growth mindset as they collaboratively develop a time and place where our province's earliest learners will begin their formal journey through an education system that will last most of them at least 12 years.
Although I am reading and talking with people about the kindergarten journey, I am a practitioner, and I need to see it in action.
Fortunately, Instagram has become my new poison: I joined in October 2015, and I often flip through my feed when I have a minute or two at the bus stop or while doing one-armed stretches while riding the elevator at home or work. (I love the visual expediency of the 1000-word picture, and the language of hashtags, when applied descriptively and creatively rather than purely as a long list of marketing gimmicks, intrigues me.)
Inspiration vs. Diversion
For a few weeks after starting my new job -- lost at sea without a classroom of my own -- I got sucked into the world of "teaching's so hard and we're going post ridiculous memes of how brutal it is every second of every day" for a bit. I began following accounts like names like "teacher misery", which pretty much sum up the often true but not the only focus of some of the more challenging aspects of the teaching profession.
But the themes of these accounts, and the underlying messages implied by the gaps in their posting topics, soon got to me.
Frustrated by my own increasing depression of how frustrating the system can be, I spent one evening un-following several teacher accounts, and doing an Instagram search for things like "teacher passion", "I love teaching", "Ontario Teacher" and "Authentic Inquiry". Surely, I thought, there must be keen and eager teachers out there who are doing it well, despite the sometimes enormous challenges of too many children, not enough space, and limited resources...
Perhaps not surprisingly, the most frequent photos that popped up were ones from Kindergarten classrooms!
The research (e.g. Dweck and Leggett and others) strongly indicates that children who see themselves as capable learners early on in their development tend to experience more success throughout their educational careers and beyond.
These identities are not only formed early on, but also once set are -- according to the research -- very difficult to change. Therefore, Kindergarten educators play a key role in building a society of engaged, growth-oriented citizens: It is they, along with parents and families, who help children form an image of themselves as learners... or not.
I'm excited to see from the many photos Ontario Kindergarten educators are enthusiastically posting on Instagram that these building blocks are being thoughtfully and joyfully offered to our young learners.
I think the rest of us have a lot to learn from what's happening in Kindergarten!
* I am not naiive enough to think that the types of activities I see posted on Instagram are indicative of what's happening every minute of every day in a given classroom; I know that many of the same hurdles I faced as a teacher are faced by the educators in Kindergarten classrooms. But the fact that they are leveraging the affinities of their students and beating the odds of the challenges some may face -- even a few times a week -- is a testament to the many wonderful things happening in their classroom practice!