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Universal Preschool, Bliss-Worthy!

Posted by on in Education Policy
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I love teaching every grade level! Each is unique and has its own challenges. At the moment I am focusing my attention to preschool. The kids are simply a riot and if you need a jolt of joy, join the fun.

Tonight I'm sharing my thoughts with you about the importance of universal preschool. In reality, probably that's not starting soon enough, brain-wise. We really need to be focusing at least birth through two or three. Let's just agree on preschool as a starting point.

Preschools are a mixed bag, ranging from daycare to full-on fantastic learning experiences, just depends. 

The STEM flower needs early nurturing. We can help. Fund, respect, align with Kindergarten, pay teachers fairly. Volunteer. Legislative efforts. Start a dialogue regarding the tremendous value of earlier childhood education. Really promote the children's organizations you already support.

I was dismayed to read our country is way behind most other countries in educational funding for these critical learning years. Why?

How do we know what to teach preschoolers when the world is turning upside down? Information is zooming at us with such a light speed, perhaps we need to rethink the purpose of littles' schooling and where we go next? What skills and attributes will kids really need to know to thrive in a new, constantly changing economy and life?

What does make sense to me is starting really early with kids. Expose each child to print and language rich experiences, as well as appropriate tech. Ensure a seamless path from home to school, and understand many stakeholders do care enough to invest in early childhood education as a cause.

 Start learning early, in a schoolhouse way, just makes good sense. I am aware public schools are already underfunded, of course. Certainly we, as a nation of believers can figure out a way to fund high quality preschool through adult education. We talk about lifelong learners, but why are the littlest learners so neglected?

This investment will return in big ways. Today, some cities and states are focusing efforts on expanding existing daycare or adding daycare programs. So it has started. Keep watching for preschool to pop up in parent websites, as well as scholarly reports, there are so many implications and ramifications.

 Preschool models basic life rules children will always keep such as sharing and caring, taking turns, saying sorry and cleaning up messes. Of course, academic skills are important, but so are recess, dramatic play, being kids. Getting dirty. Creating. Building. Singing and dancing.

Preschool doesn't have to be kindergarten or first grade, and shouldn't. However, every child deserves a chance to participate, gain basic social skills, learn and grow. How developmentally appropriate can preschools be in a digital era? Such a conversation.

I commend Head Start as a marvelous achievement, but not all kids are being served and I want to see every little child in programs. Don't you? It's a matter of equity.  Children who are not in decent daycare or a solid preschool are starting school already behind and just get further behind. Statistics are statistics, no point in stating the obvious.

Preschools teach empathy and cooperation. Build learning comunities and teams. These skills are useful throughout school and into the world of work. There is no fluff about learning to work together.

Since we live in a time of rapid paced innovation, it only makes sense to kick off quality programs right from the get-go, or, again, kids are already behind before they even start. That certainly does not level the playing field.

We need to rethink the importance of 'early start learning' and fully fund universal preschool.

I'd certainly like to see monies redirected from prisons to preschools, wouldn't you?

Let's also reflect on standards for becoming a preschool teacher, perceived status, compared to 'regular' school. What about low teacher pay, combined with big responsibilities. Quite an important job. The academic push has pushed all the way down now, and pressure is on our preschool teachers and little tots. 

In the fascinating article I'm sharing in a moment, I read there were a few years during World War II that universal preschool was fully funded. When that brief stint ended in 1946, it was get the best you can get. I know. I've been there, too, and sadly, it was while I was Principal, taking care of everybody else's children. 

Now that Morgan is getting ready to start Kindergarten at 'big school' and leave her preschool, I find myself torn in two directions.

Ironic I love to hang with the littles. I began by student teaching in seventh and eighth grade reading, followed by High School English, Speech, Drama and Reading. 

While Principal, I learned about preschool in real-time, on the job training. Since the preschool was on our K-6 campus, for a couple years I was given the entire preschool program, as well. Not knowing what I was doing, I was the worst, but well intended. Just loved those kids. 

Preschool is bliss, simply bliss. I've had such a great time at Morgan's preschool, kind of a combo of Reggio, Montessori and two dedicated teachers. Yet, not every child in American goes to a quality preschool. That's a fact. I want every child to have the best experience our little peanut had.

I think we're going to see a deluge of articles regarding the intense need for universal preschool. With both parents working, a ton of single mothers juggling a lot of balls, time is a scarce commodity. Combine childrens' need for dramatic play, exposure to the written and spoken word, learning how to learn and get along with each other, preschool teachers are the unsung heroes and sheroes deserving our thanks and admiration.


So I decided there is something I can do, to help at least one school. I'm volunteering now at 'summer camp' preschool. When the fall term starts, I'm at school half days, every day to help with a newly funded reading program. I think I'll need a nap mat.

Here's how day 1 went: (Included hike to park, but no swimming yet) 

Tennies got soaked in grass at playground. Special.

  1. Narrowly escaped flying balls at recess.
  2. Remembered kleenex, wipes & bandaids in my pockets.
  3. Can't sneak raspberries out of a baggie. Little eyes everywhere.
  4. Rolls in the lunch program just as good as I remembered, not gluten free.
  5. Litle milk cartons still hard to open & straws get bent.
  6. Velcro, or better practice shoe tying. Easier to walk when shoes on right feet.
  7. Remembering my dollar store sticker roll, genius, hurray! 

I'll be writing about my preschool adventures, you can be sure of that. Watching routines work and not work, having the kid slime me from his snail, and getting all those big smiles and hugs, what can be better? 

Preschool is blissful. Let's make it a top priority. Universal preschool. Now.


Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita



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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 45 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. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

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