I have taught preschool for over a dozen years and raised four children of my own. We all are born with gifts and talents, and mine happen to be firmly planted in understanding and relating to young children. I love reading books to them, playing games with them, helping them to discover new things, and generally being in their presence.
The preschool I worked in before the pandemic was a joyful place. The children were eager to learn, eager to socialize, eager to make friends and discover new things. Behavior problems were an afterthought. Occasionally my assistant or I would need to redirect a child who was not playing nicely with others, or comfort a child who came in to the classroom feeling sad. Tears in the morning only lasted a minute or two. But in general, we spent only a tiny fraction of our day responding to negative behaviors.
I recently re-entered the preschool classroom and found it to be a completely different setting--and it has me seriously concerned! I witnessed children who were socially and academically far behind where children of a similar age were in the Spring of 2020. I witnessed children who were filled with uncontrollable rage and children with a seemingly complete lack of empathy. The children were far less interested in making friends and their self interest was the driving force of most of their interactions. They exhibited much less self control and generally seemed so much less happy or content than pre-pandemic.
In the 6 weeks that I was there to observe a three and four year old classroom, I had not one, but two students who when feeling angry would proceed to violently wreck the classroom--pushing chairs over, grabbing baskets of markers and pencils to throw across the room, trying to actively kick and hit other classmates and teachers who were trying to restrain them. I saw children unable to sit and listen to a short simple story--one that was at a level far beneath what I was reading to my pre-pandemic class. I found children who showed little curiosity for novel information, and had little or no interest in listening to the spoken word.
Games, songs and books that used to make little ones giggle or smile with delight, fell on deaf ears--these little ones exhibited much less joy. And it has me worried! I follow other preschool teacher websites and message boards and I know for a fact that my observations are being seen and heard and felt all across the country as other preschool teachers are struggling.
What is going on? Why are our littlest learners struggling so very much? Is this the result of overwrought parents? Is this the result of parents who are just trying to survive--working from home and willing to let the little ones do whatever it takes to keep them quiet? Are the mental health struggles of adults being mirrored by the children? Why are a little ones lacking any self control? Why are they lacking motivation to learn and discover? Why are they filled with anger? Why are they lacking empathy?
I know that little ones learn what they live. I firmly believe our family lives are in crisis and the smallest among us are paying the price.
PARENTS--YOU NEED TO STEP UP! YOU NEED TO BE THERE FOR YOUR LITTLE ONES! YOU ARE THERE MOST IMPORTANT TEACHERS! YOU NEED TO FOCUS ON GIVING THEM LOVE AND ATTENTION--AND ALSO TEACH THEM SELF CONTROL!
Do you read to them?
Do you eat meals together?
Do you talk to them?
Do you play with them?
I am beginning to wonder what is really going on in most households.
Your child needs you. Please, please, please take notice. If you are struggling, get help so that you can be the parent you were meant to be. Your and your child deserve your best self!