Q: My son had a kindergarten teacher who did not do creative projects (such as painting) or cooking with the students. She very, very seldom let them play in the blocks or house area. All they did was sit and listen, do worksheets, or use the computer. The class next door was completely opposite. The kids painted, baked, and did lots of other hands-on activities. My second child will be in kindergarten next year, and I want her to have the hands-on teacher. What can I do? Do you feel that teaching style makes a difference? Both teachers cover the same curriculum, just in very different ways.
A: As you well know, as a parent you always have to follow your heart as to what is the best placement for your child. Nobody knows your children as well as you do. If you feel that your child's style and yours too is more the hands-on class than by all means you should ask for that classroom and teacher.
It is important to speak up in a non-confrontational way when you feel something is not right for your child. Start by discussing your observations with the teachers. Express your knowledge of your own child's learning styles. For example, you might suggest that your child needs to be active to learn, or that she needs creative outlets to express herself. Of course, it is important to listen to the teachers' reasons for their teaching styles. Together you can discuss how a balance can be created. It is also important to speak to the principal about your choice of program for your child and your reasons for your choice. The principal ultimately is the person who can affect your child's placement.
Most children benefit from a program that is a delightful mix of hands-on experiences and academics. Since children often respond best to play-based learning, kindergarten teachers work to create fun hands-on activities that are educational and stimulate children's understanding. Developmentally, it is difficult for young children to sit still and listen for long. So kindergarten teachers try to keep academic work to a minimum. That way when children do sit down, they can enjoy the work!
Ellen Booth Church is a former professor of early childhood education, an education consultant and author.