Full Day Kindergarten: More Than "Full Time Day Care"
The Lawyer's Slip-Up
Kindergarten Teachers Can Color A Child's View Of School Forever
I adored my kindergarten teacher.
Mrs. Cauthers had a kind face, a very maternal nature, and even made time out of her day to come visit me at home when I was recovering from a tonsilectomy. She made me feel safe in being at school, when at the time, I was terrified of being away from home. I didn't do as most kids now do; I didn't go to daycare, as my parents made the decision that my mother would stay home until my sister and I were in school at least part-time, and she would work her schedule around our school commitments. I honestly don't remember much of kindergarten, except Mrs. Cauthers made it safe, and she made it fun.
Flash forward some four decades, and now I'm a parent with two girls - a teen and a preteen - and I'm grateful to their kindergarten teachers as well for having the patience with both girls to make sure they felt safe and that they learned learning could be fun and exciting. I also have friends who teach full-day kindergarten in Ontario, and while I hear exciting adventures about kids trying to pick their nose and make their friends eat it, or how one little guy helped another friend get ready to go outside, I also hear the absolute passion my friends have for their work.
My one friend has an Educational Assistant roughly a half an hour daily, at least one student deemed "medically fragile," and a few students who from the sounds of it are carrying the weight of the world on their small shoulders. If memory serves, she has around 25 or 30 kids in her class, all with different needs and capabilities and daily "stuff" they have on their minds. Somehow, though, my friend continues to pour her heart and absolute soul into everything she's doing, ranging from setting up a week of Christmas around the world where her students could learn about the different Christmas traditions different countries have, to taking her kids outdoors to do science, to helping these very small kids navigate some very big feelings. She is the first person who these students are relying on to start them on their educational journey, and at the end of the day, they will remember everything she's done well into high school and post-secondary education.
My other friend is also a kindergarten teacher, and she's told me stories as well about the learning adventures her kids enjoy. With the job action currently ongoing, she's seen some of these kids come to the picket lines saying thank you and bearing cookies for her and her colleagues. I see her trying to set up the best program she can while keeping in mind each child's individual needs and abilities, and she's bending over backward to ensure these kids are being set up for scholastic success while also ensuring they learn various positive character traits, like kindness.
To hear an Ontario government lawyer slip up at an Ontario Labour Relations Board hearing and refer to Ontario's prized Full Day Kindergarten program as "full-time daycare" is demeaning to my friends and anyone who is a kindergarten teacher. It also serves to further highlight just how poorly the Ontario government - or at least the Ministry of Education considers Full Day Kindergarten.
Any educator working in a kindergarten program knows just how busy your day is. Granted, I deal with high school students, who are a far cry from these little guys who are just starting out, but when you're talking about 25 or 30 four- or five-year-olds in a classroom who are supercharged and ready to learn and play and grow, you're looking at an incredibly busy day, to put it politely. Any one of a number of joys and emotional crises can occur when you're five, and when you're looking at the educator at the front of a classroom to help you for guidance, and said educator is also trying to help two other students through a math challenge, while another is feeling sad because their dog is sick, while another wants to celebrate because he or she just wrote their name on their own with no help, and another is looking for a different book to read, you quickly learn that anyone involved with a full-day kindergarten classroom must have superhero blood flowing through their veins.
I could not do what my friends do. I couldn't, and that's with me knowing that I adore little kids. Yet, they continue to pour their absolute heart into educating these new students and showing them that education can be a great experience.
If anyone involved with the Ontario government had actually gone to a publicly funded classroom to see what went on, perhaps the government might have a better appreciation for what teachers do. If that government lawyer even experienced a half-hour in a full-day kindergarten class, he, and perhaps the Conservatives as a whole, might have a different appreciation for full-day kindergarten.
Don't get me wrong - daycare has its place, and does a wonderful job in encouraging learning in kids before they get to school - but to slip and refer to full-day kindergarten as full-time daycare is appalling.
Again, the Ford government needs to do better, but at this point, is anyone surprised?