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Redshirting K: Yay or Nay?

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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welcome to kindergarten

What's the rush? Childhood is a precious time!

"Redshirting", not just in athletics. The competition is fierce. In Kindergarten! 

Mixed emotions. Interesting articles lately about redshirting. It's way more common than I thought and it actually affects all of us, all grade levels. What a big decision. It's more than birthday cut-off dates, or 'maturity'. In some cases it gives a step up to catch up, it can also be used to get to the top of the pack, the delay adding a distinct advantage.

 In our preschool, kids are definitely ready for kindergarten. The 'fives' are showing their collective muscle and I notice a lot more chasing on the play areas. Less looking for worms and snails. More boo boos.

Academically, in touch with the world, know please and thank you, clean up their messes and can sing the names of all the states.  (You Tube!) and Teacher Cheryl. Teacher Thom has taught the children sign language. Simply extraordinary program.

I've been asked to come back and help for another year. Yes, of course for the littles, but next year even littler, mostly 2-4 year olds, littler than little. It took me all year to master our teachers' routines, learn how to do even the most simple crafts. I have to make a model of everything, first. Teacher Cheryl simply throws a bunch of odds and ends together, everything looks awesome.

I am learning how to teach all over again.

It's really no different than any other grade or content level I've taught, Kids are kids. And at least most of the time these kiddos get to learn through play. The way it used to be before bubbling in came to pass. And a lot of other stuff that simply made no sense to me. How can you script kids?

I spend a lot of time saying "anybody gotta' go potty?" And I teach. Even while children are standing in line to wash their hands, which is frequently.

Such a glorious experience. Instead of just writing about it, I am doing it, not just as a volunteer, like I started a few times during Summer Camp, but now I'm at school, hopefully helping. I pour and spill a lot of milk.

 Lookin' good, almost final concert tap dance ready: No credit to me. 

ABCs, can say, sing and write. Multi-sensory.

Phonemic awarenss, concepts about print, book handling. Ta dah!

Left and right. No comment. So redundant!

Resolve conflicts. 'A'. A lot of tears. A lot of hugs. "I'm sorry."

Children love school. Heartwarming.

Our world is a wonderful place. 

Know where they live in the larger world around them. 

Because of this full immersion into the world of the youngest- 

I think I have changed my mind about Kinder redshirting. At least now I am more open to the idea. When kindergartens lost their pianos and play turned into masses of worksheets and assessment, things simply changed, and I don't think for the better. Dick and Jane had ponies in every yard, a little much, but that isn't the way it is now, anyway.

With so many of our beautiful children living in poverty, and unknowns about continued lunch and afterschool programs, maybe breakfast, too, poverty is rearing its ugly head. Poverty is THE defining factor in most academic areas, especially literacy.

Unless qualified and able to attend a Head Start program, many families simply can't afford a quality preschool, unless we as a nation prioritize Universal Preschool, which I have been advocating. Recently I read, in Ed. Week and NPR that NY state is adding three year olds to its four year old preschool program. Priorities.That should be our model, at least for now.

Back to redshirting. That may mean the gift of time. Maybe for some kids that gift of time is needed. Perhaps if truly not ready for the intensive demands now placed on Kindergarteners, better than a retention after the K year. Just exploring here. I have no firm convictions anymore. Youngest kiddos in a Kindergarten class may be ready, or not. Just depends.

Dick and Jane had it going. Kindergartens were kinder gardens. I applaud America's early child educators who manage to keep the joy in, while balancing needs and demands. My blog post clearly shows that today's kindergarten, as far as literacy, teaches what firsties used to know and do. Insightful. Please read, if you missed it before. Kindergartens are not what they used to be. 

A young child, smart and full of joy may not be ready for such heavy academic content. If play is not top priority, school will be joyless. As for the teacher, children who missed earliest experiences in preschool, are not starting at the same point, at the same time academic expectations are higher than ever. This is stressful and burning out some of our finest teachers.

 Technically, I could say redshirting is a retention. While Principal, we had a fantastic pre-first, Junior Kindergarten which propped students up, whether due to age, "immaturity", or missing preschool. Our district stopped the program, saying it was a retention.

It catches up, grade to grade when children were not ready. Then comes third. Too many children are retained in third grade. By third, kiddos are supposed to know how to read, in order to read to learn in fourth. I read Michigan and other states may be considering this cut-point again, in order to boost test scores, probably. It's ineffective for children, possibly devasting, and costs more money for another year of schooling. I am adamantly opposed to this practice.

That being said, at least three percent or maybe five per cent or more of kiddos are being redshirted. Google search and you'll find stories of pros and cons. I had no idea so many people are even considering, well that's not quite accurate, just surprising the amount now. I get it.

More affluent parents have the option of paying for another year of a private preschool. What about children of poverty who have no opportunity to attend such a school? Does this really give some children an advantage that lasts the rest of their life, including the workplace?

Tonight I am not quoting statistics, simply suggesting this time of year as we look at what Kindergarteners are expected to know and do, both physically and mentally, perhaps the idea of "redshirting" may have some merit after all.

Kindergarten sign-ups have consequences. I've seen children start, then leave right away. I've also experienced frazzled teachers caught off guard- some inexperienced kiddos are new to school and a lot more time has to be spent on basic routines.

Teachers can handle anything, but it is tiring to have a bunch of kids throwing themselves on the floor tantruming. This is reality. High expections for littles. What are politicians and 'decision-makers' thinking? What's the rush?

My blog post on kindergarten suspensions adds a little more grist to the hopper. Is there a connection between more immature children who needed the extra year to get kindergarten ready? I don't know.

 I'd really like to hear from you, success story or further question marks, as parent or teacher. How about administrators? Your thoughts matter to me.

What about redshirting? Maybe a stop sign?

Check out that K curriculum before making a BIG decision.

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita




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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 47 years, Mrs. Wirtz taught language arts, speech and reading at all levels preschool-adult, including penal. She served as Pre-school and K-6 Principal. Rita was also a Curriculum Consultant, ESEA, Title I Program Evaluator and literacy trainer. At the university level she taught school administration in the Bilingual Cohort at CSUS and National University, Sacto. Mrs. Wirtz also taught all reading courses for Chapman University for many years in Sacramento and Placerville, Ca., and mentored student teachers. On the national level she was a well known motivational Keynote Speaker and Seminar Leader. Most importantly, Rita walked the talk, teaching with teachers in more than 500 K-12 and special needs classrooms. Rita authored books, publications and Pre- YouTube, videos were filmed by San Diego County Office of Education. Calif. ASCD authored companion book guides, and Calif. school districts correlated her basic skills instruction with State Standards. Mrs. Wirtz' newest book is Reading Champs! Teaching Reading Made Easy, a review of the basic building blocks of English and Reading. Rita is currently teaching in a multi-age, fully incuded preschool, ages 2-8. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

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Guest Friday, 15 February 2019