Hey, Preschool Teacher: Is It You or a Screen? I Choose YOU

So, I really wasn’t expecting what I witnessed today, but somehow, it didn’t surprise me.

I took the morning to visit a childcare center that might potentially partner with our Early Childhood program to provide practicum experiences for our students.

We currently have contracts with about six or seven centers that align with our philosophy, are accredited, and employ quality, degreed teachers. We have built long-term, reciprocal relationships with them and many of our students are now working there, having made a good impression while student teaching.

The particular center I visited today had been asking for over a year to be considered and for me to schedule a visit. It was a corporate childcare center and the cost of attending was subsidized by the company… a perk of employment. They certainly spared no expense. The rooms were spacious and beautiful, with amazing layouts and an abundance of equipment and play materials.

When I arrived, the children were also arriving. I was impressed by the warm, personal greeting each parent and child received and how smoothly the teachers were able to bypass any potential separation distress, with their friendly engagement. I thought to myself that this visit was going to be a real pleasure.

I may have come to this conclusion too soon. The teacher called the children over to a brightly patterned carpet for what I assumed would be their circle time… some greetings, some songs, maybe a movement activity and a story and a short discussion about their day.

But no. On the wall was hung a huge swath of fabric that served as a pretty big screen. About 20 feet back was a metal cart and laptop. One of the teachers pulled up YouTube and proceeded to start one video after another, for about a half hour. There were story videos with poor quality cartoon characters and then a couple of music/movement videos that appeared to be geared to middle-schoolers.

The teacher sat down on the other side of the room to cut out paper shapes (I assume for some type of display). When one video ended, she would jump up and start another. The co-teacher busied herself setting up activities on the tables for the day. Hmmm. Why wasn’t this already taken care of?



I caught myself shaking my head. Unbelievable. Absolutely no teacher interaction or even participation here.  But, it gets worse.

Fast-forward to snack time. The teachers prepared the tables with cups and napkins and trays of graham crackers and bowls of fruit. I wasn’t expecting part of the set-up to include an iPad at the end of each of the tables, propped up, so the screen was visible to the children. Each of these were streaming a Pixar movie.

After hand washing, the children filed over to their respective seats at the table and commenced watching and eating. Ostensibly missing? Conversation. Attention to what and how much was being eaten. The teachers. The teachers! They sat together at their own table, chatting — presumably seeing this as another break for the day.

So, what had been missed thus far by these children? The irreplaceable and valuable interaction with the teacher, as she read a book, when they could hear words and rhyme, ask questions, and immerse themselves in the story.

They also missed a teacher-led creative movement opportunity, where they could use their imaginations and sing, rather than following along almost robotically with a video.

And for many, they missed what might be the only family table they have in their day… where they can enjoy conversations with their peers and teachers, practice table manners, and learn to pay attention to what and how much they are eating.

Too much had been lost already this day and it was only 10:00. I politely excused myself. This program would not benefit our students. I know they, too, would be bothered by these things, having learned about the value of social interaction and their role as an early educator. Yes, they also knew the value of technology, but learned its use in terms of developmentally appropriate practices.

They would know that technology is not a curriculum or a caregiver and it is our responsibility to know the difference.

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