Over the past several weeks, but in particular the past four days, you may have seen in the news that many Head Start classrooms across the country have closed as a result of sequestration. Classrooms equal about 18 to 20 kids per room, which for us amounted to 127 kids that will not be able to access a high quality early learning experience. To say that our teachers are sad would be to minimize how they are really feeling, but they remain steadfast in their commitment to the kids and families will have the chance to reap the benefits of Head Start.
Today I had the chance to work with a group of Head Start Teachers who were getting a classroom ready for kids who will come on September 9th. This year we have a unique opportunity to have one of our classrooms housed in a local, urban, elementary school. The hope is that next year, since the kids will be familiar with the school, their parents will have them continue on to kindergarten in the classroom across the hall. It will be a terrific partnership.
Back to the teachers, there were 3 of them and one teacher assistant in the room today. Among them they have a collective 75+ years in working with 3, 4 and 5 year-olds. They are amazingly smart, good-humored, creative and dedicated. We were frantic; painting, cleaning, sorting, building… it was great! We finished as much as we could at about 5:30, in preparation for our DCYF licensing officer’s visit the next day. Then we had a chance to just take a look at what we’d done and how the room looked now compared to what it did eight hours ago.
As we sat talking about what this classroom means to the kids, the school, the neighborhood; the teachers’ excitement about this new classroom was palpable. I asked about why they like this age group, why they’ve kept doing it for so long? There were many answers in the conversation, and then one of the teachers said how she would be going back to school herself in the spring to get her Master’s Degree. She’s been teaching preschool for thirty years and has, literally, no intention of stopping, ever. She said, “I gotta keep learning, Kel. If I’m not learning, I can’t help the kids.”
I sometimes think that preschool teachers are the unsung heroes of the educational system. In my opinion, for many kids, without them, they would never have finished high school. Today’s thank you is for ALL the preschool teachers I get to work with everyday, the ones I’ve worked with in the past, and the ones who stay committed to their own learning as well as their “kids” for so many years!
- Federal cuts slash Rhode Island’s Head Start program by $1.3 million (providence journal)
- RI Senators to talk about spending cuts (wpri.com)
- Sequester Hits Federal Pre-K, Cuts Services to More Than 57,000 Children (ijreview.com)