Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kids in La Mesa succeed in kindergarten when focus is broad, not just on academics

"And it’s become so academic it’s almost against my principles of teaching like this. Really. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s what made me make my decision.”

Unrelenting Ruth: Leiderman of Murray Manor is Longest-Serving Teacher
But kindergarten veteran is parting in sorrow and protest in 2012
By Doug Williams
La Mesa Patch
May 7, 2011

Even after all these years, Ruth Leiderman still gets nervous and can’t sleep the night before the first day of school in September. It’s the joy of being around children that keeps her going...

“She believes passionately that we not only teach the academics but also develop the whole child developmentally.

“The mentality that has crept into some educational institutions has been ‘put away the clay.’ Not Mrs. Leiderman and her incredible kinder colleagues. I can walk into her classroom on any given day throughout the year and she has something amazing going on for the students. It could be a life-size igloo made of milk cartons, a Polar Express train running down the middle of her room, or all the students dressed as kings and queens.”

Those are examples of the old-school kindergarten values that Leiderman still believes in.

While teachers are now held more accountable for test scores and measured student growth, Leiderman continues to incorporate as much hands-on play as possible.

In her classroom, she still has sand tables, easels, a playhouse and uses clay and Play-Doh, whenever she can mold them into the curriculum.

As she says, “I’ve adapted.”

Yet she disagrees with some of the change.

“The standards have increased,” she says, explaining kindergarten evolution. “And I don’t mind saying, I personally don’t feel for the better. ... I’m actually sad to see the way it went. Very sad.

“I still think the kindergartners should be doing things other than reading and writing. There’s plenty for them to do that’s developmental. … I think learning through play is lost. I truly believe that children learn through play. And that’s gone. All those discoveries that they used to make on their own.”

Leiderman says she’s grateful that at Murray Manor she’s been allowed to blend the old with the new. She knows it’s not the norm at some schools.

As the day unfolds, two hours of language arts are scheduled in the morning, followed by recess, math, lunch and then social studies, science, music, art and “developmental time” when she can blend in the clay and the play.

And is the old-school approach hurting the new-age expectations?

No, says Magliato. He says Leiderman still “maintains rigorous academics” and her class is exceeding the reading-level expectations for this year...

Next year is my last year,” she says. “Do you want to know why? Write it carefully when you write it. I don’t like the way education is going. I’m upset that there’s 30 kids in kindergarten. I think there’s no business for 30 kids to be in kindergarten. And it’s become so academic it’s almost against my principles of teaching like this. Really. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s what made me make my decision.”...

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