Friday, June 3, 2022

F ³: No More Pomp and Circumstance


People who belong in academic gowns and headgear: high school seniors. College students and above.

People who do not belong in academic gowns and headgear: preschoolers. Kindergarteners.

I realize this may be an unpopular opinion. 

I hold this opinion not because I’m a purist and think the proper use of academic garb should be religiously adhered to. I’ve come to this point of view after years of working with young children. Ceremonies devised by adults to look like “graduations” are often merely occasions for adults to snap photos and say, “aren’t they cute!” 

They aren’t meaningful to the students. They are events that require extended practice and long periods of being still and quiet. They often force students to perform by saying rote memorized words or songs. These are not developmentally appropriate things to ask young children to do. Add a gown and mortar board that are awkward and unfamiliar and possibly uncomfortable in the heat, and what you have feels a lot more like punishment than a celebration.

The very best part of these programs for the kids is when they are over. They peel off the uncomfortable layers of formality. They run off to play and have refreshments.

The most authentic end-of-year celebrations are the ones that honor the essence of what early childhood is all about. They include an opportunity for visitors to enjoy visual art and projects created by the students, and for students to tell their visitors about things they have done at school. If there is music it is something the children themselves love and have genuine enthusiasm for. The program includes movement, hands-on materials, stories the students themselves have created. The length is tailored to the developmental needs of the children. 

It is probably not that much longer than a classroom story time or circle time and it gives parents, relatives, and friends a glimpse into the learning and relationships that made the school year meaningful.

It is absolutely possible to have an event which honors the celebration of learning and growth - - and marks a transition to what will come in the future - - without throwing everything we know about early childhood education in the trash.

Nothing is more painful to me than watching beautiful, innately capable kids forced to endure another iteration of “we do this every year.” It is unnecessary. It is unproductive. It doesn’t honor the essence of who they really are. 

Shouldn’t that be what it’s all about?

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