What does your child’s work look like?

Deep in my wife, Kim’s heart for her preschoolers is a desire for them to discover process rather than turning out a conventional product that fits someone else’s image.  This is a battle she fights with some of her teachers, especially those who are not as well educated as she is.

When Kim visits other preschools, it is one of the first things she looks for.  If children’s creations are being displayed, is the entire class displayed or only those deemed worthy?  Preschoolers should not be competing for attention at school.  Do the items displayed all fit a conventional form?  Are all the skies blue?  Do all the snowmen have two eyes, a carrot nose, a mouth, and a hat in proper placement?  If so, teachers are busy trying to turn out a pretty product for the parent, and miss the point of the lesson.

The point of artwork in preschool has very little to do with turning out a product worthy of display on the home refrigerator as much as it is about developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It’s about the drawing, the cutting, the pasting, the movements that connect the neurons in the child’s brain so that they can build on fundamental skills and develop more complex actions.

Children at that age have widely varying degrees of development, so one child may turn out a picture quickly and easily with integrated colors and schemes, while another of the same age may struggle just to get color on the page.  Preschool is all about meeting children at their level of development and helping them grow from there.

When a teacher leans over a child’s shoulder to tell them where and how to place the items in their picture, or worse still, actually “fixes” the child’s picture after she has collected it, she (or he) invades the child’s being.  The teacher has lost track of their place in this process.  Kim compares it to inviting someone into your home after you’ve decorated it only to have them tell you things you should have done differently.  I won’t be inviting that person back any time soon.  Teachers want to be invited in by their students to help with the process, not the product.

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