Monday, March 23, 2009

"typically developing"

tonight in my grad school class we were put into break out groups to discuss what is typical language and social development for preschoolers. after debating with my group members for awhile i was forced to face reality. while i know the typical development of the kindergarten students who enter my school, that does not mean i know what is typically developing for the general population. i forget this. forget there are students who come into kindergarten knowing their alphabet, the sounds associated with those letters, their name, and how to use language to socially communicate their needs. as i debated what was 'typical' with my group (who was very confused at why i was putting these skill levels so low) i was slowly reminded of the vast skills my students have to make up in order to be at the same level as their 'typically developing peers'. and by 'my students' i don't just mean my special ed students- i mean the majority of the kindergarten students i work with.

the guest speaker (tina stanton-chapman) who does research on early intervention with preschoolers shared some staggering statistics. more than 50% of preschool children who have poor language and social skills will have significant social problems as an adult- they are more likely to be arrested, incarcerated, get a divorce, lose their job, or continue to have social problems that will impact their relationships with others. the development of antisocial behavior begins in early childhood from poor parental discipline and monitoring of student behavior (patterson, debaryshe, & ramsey, 1989), which leads to conduct problems. in middle childhood the student is more likely to be rejected by a normal peer group and more likely to experience academic failure, which leads to a commitment to a deviant peer group, in turn leading to delinquency in adolescence and beyond.

the depressing nature of this is that a significant number of the kindergartners i work with this year fit into the first box of poor parental discipline leading to conduct problems. we've called child protective services more times than i can count this year for these little ones, and we see their frustration and hurt come out in the classroom through aggression, withdrawn behavior, and an inability to monitor and regulate their emotions. and while we may have made baby steps with them they are only baby steps. about to go on to first grade they are still far below the list i was given tonight of 'typically developing social and linguistically competent skills' for children ages 3-5. we haven't caught up yet. and next year school will be harder, with a lot less opportunities to practice using social language, less opportunities for play, higher demand of academic skills.

i think of my little ones unable to communicate with each other, with their parents, with us- unable to monitor their behavior, regulate their emotions- and wonder where they will be 20 years from now. will they have learned these skills? will someone have stepped in and taught them? will they develop over time, slowly, until they catch up with the rest of the population, or will they become a part of the statistic- unable to control their emotions and behavior, unable to communicate their needs- will they end up in jail, or be unable to manage a healthy relationship with a significant other?

as the speaker discussed her intervention for preschool students i frantically took notes in hopes of putting something like it in place when we return from intersession. i feel like grasping onto anything which may give our little ones a step toward those skills so many other 5 year olds had before entering kindergarten. the tax return is going straight into buying some of these materials and creating my own little workshops... we have 9 more weeks and although i started class depressed by the reminder of how behind my students really are, i left feeling like there may be something i can at least try before we send them out the door.


The Science Goddess said...

Save your tax return. I'll send you $100 to use with your wee ones.

Send e me an address (the_science_goddess[at]yahoo[dot]com and I'll put funds in the mail (just as I did for Kiri8.

Anonymous said...

Believe me, it is not just in kindergarten that this is happening. I teach 6th grade language arts and literature in a middle school, and never have I had such huge amount of students who don't know how to write!
We have a strong gifted literature program at our school and I have many gifted students throughout my four language arts classes. The majority of them already knew how to write essays when they began school in August. Most of my other students, however, had no idea how to write a good sentence.
After much frustration and constant editing and consultations with many of my students, I finally broke all four classes into two smaller classes each. One had the assignment of a children's book (the ones who finished their essays with an A or a B), and the other was doing remediation. By remeidation, I mean rewriting sentences to make them sound better, and putting correct capitalization and punctuation wherever necessary.
Has it helped? I hope so. The kids doing remediation had the opportunity to redo any work they got wrong.
There are so many kids coming to us from all over the city. We accept transfers because so many parents like how the teachers work so hard. You think? I am exhausted and I am only one person. And it seems, that no matter how much I plan, how much I try to engage all the students, there are so many that just hate being there.
I want so much to make a difference in their lives. I want them to understand that it is important for them to know how to spell well and write well. Many people in their future will not give them a second chance if they do not fill out a job application well. I so wish they were capable of understanding the impact they are having upon their education when they don't try.
Every year it seems to get worse. But every year, I come back to school trying harder. I'm not ready to give up yet. They need someone to believe in them.