Today I had some time to look around some preschool and toddler classrooms. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the things I saw.
In the preschool classroom, my first impression was, disorganized. While the room it self wasn’t that disorganized. It had the book reading/library area, a block building area, a kitchen area, shelves with small building materials and manipulatives, art supplies kids could access etc… yet, the walls appeared cluttered. The longer I sat (1 hour total while kids were napping) the more I realized there was no good place in the room for my eyes to rest. Between kid artwork, job charts, class made posters, teacher papers (check lists, emergency info) and even ages and stages poster and ethics posters in the bathroom areas- there wasn’t a free spot anywhere. Then, on top of all of that, there were what appeared to be “random” pictures of people and buildings around the room, stapled to the walls, as well as, letters and numbers. However, the letters and numbers were not organized but rather stapled to the walls at what appeared to be random places.
I wanted to take the time to describe all this, so that you understand what it is I saw. In today’s age, with so much media, kids are bombarded by images and stimulation constantly. People are worried about kids not being able focus or “pay attention” and are quick to want to yell, punish, or even put them on medication to make them docile and make them pay attention. What I need to throw into the air- and I’m sure I’m not the first, is what are we doing proactively about their classroom environments to help young children focus, rather than reactively when they don’t.
As I sat in that room, I had trouble focusing. My eyes were constantly traveling around the cluttered walls. Now I personally hang a lot of art in my personal spaces. Some may same I am a pack-rat, and I am most definitely not a neat person. Nevertheless, I have gotten to choose in my own home where I like to have stimulation and where I don’t. I also got to choose the stimulation. In a classroom more often than not it is the teachers making all those decisions without, it appeared today, much regard for the children.
I then went on to think about why. As one looks carefully through the NAEYC accreditation guidelines (this center is accredited) one can read that images and pictures of diversity count as a way to demonstrate the teachers are meeting a particular standard. In multiple places it says evidence may include posters or pictures. For example, it says “Look for evidence of art, music, drama and dance and at least one representation of cultural diversity for each (art, music, drama, dance). Evidence may include such things as books, posters, lesson plans, posted schedules, and materials that address the benefits of good health practices.” (NAEYC). I believe that teachers read this or hear about this and think that if they have a picture of art, people dancing in another country, some people putting on a play, and a person playing an instrument in the classroom, no matter where it is posted, then they are demonstrating that standard. What isn’t explained- is how are just having those pictures randomly posted about the room helpful or meaningful to the children. To have pictures for pictures sake- does not really meet the intended goal of the standard.
How can we meet the standards as intended- but in meaningful ways?
How should materials be organized on walls to be the most meaningful?
What really should be on the walls to support children’s learning and development?
To be continued.
(Sorry it was so long, and sorry it was so long between posts.)