ENGAGING EDUCATION: Prep pupils Stuart Hawker, Wudarabin Snider and Abbey Palmer are learning many skills through the simple act of painting. Source: The Sunday Mail (Qld)
PREP isn't the time for assessment, that's not what it is about. It's about preparing children for school.
"Dear Miss Hind,
As you know, because my fine motor skills and pencil grip are not quite tippity-top yet, although thanks to you I am well on my way, my mum is writing this to you to tell you what you have done for me this year.
You have made me curious – I will never be afraid to ask when I don't know.
You have made me try harder – where I once gave up, you have taught me to push on.
You have made me stronger – I trust my body to take me where it needs to go.
You have made me braver – when my heart is thudding you have made it sing.
But most of all you have made me happy, and I (and my mum) love you for that."
THIS is a copy of the end-of-year Christmas card my son gave his Prep teacher, Fran Hind, last year.
She kept it, because that's what teachers like her do, they keep all the keepsakes from the children they have taught over the years, in spite of overflowing cupboards and families who tell them to "get rid of this junk".
I have reproduced it here today, with Fran's permission – and with much scrounging about her cupboard to find it – because I felt it was timely to share what it said about Prep, or more importantly, what it didn't say.
It didn't say "thanks for improving my grade point spelling average".
It didn't say "thanks for helping me get an A in numeracy".
It didn't mention any sort of assessment at all. Because that's not what Prep is about.
It's about preparing children for school, about getting them used to the idea of spending the next 12 or so years of their young lives within its walls.
It's about teaching them where the tuckshop is, how to get to the toilet, who to ask if you're in trouble, how to share, how to sit in a seat quietly even though your whole body feels like a jumping bean.
Prep teachers like Fran Hind – and there are many – help kids who don't know how to ask "can I play?", they quietly tell them "I know you can do it" when they think they can't, and when school, the bells, the kids, the noise, and the fact that someone else got to the Leggo box before them becomes all too much, they say "how about we go and choose a book from reading corner together?"
Along the way, the children are learning all sorts of things, drinking in knowledge, almost as if by osmosis.
They didn't need structured lessons to do it and they certainly didn't need to be assessed on their ability to do so.
The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is currently drafting its national curriculum, to be delivered in all schools across Australia. One of its proposals is that "achievement standards will be introduced to the Prep Year".
How utterly unnecessary.
A child of four or five can undergo transformations in the space of a few weeks of which a caterpillar turning into a butterfly would be proud.
One mother I know is thrilled – and just a little shocked – at her daughter, Marnie, who is reading Year 3 books in her Year 1 classroom.
At Prep, the little girl had trouble reading her own name.
I wonder what would have happened if Marnie had been given a D for reading back in Prep?
Would her Year 1 teacher have seen that mark, slotted her into the bottom reading group and never stretched her wings?
ACARA says some Queensland parents want the grading system introduced here, as it already has been in Victoria.
Well, maybe Victoria should come in line with Queensland.
Maybe someone from the Victorian Education Department should come up here and have a look at our Prep classrooms and see all our little caterpillars who are about to turn into butterflies.