Monday, June 15, 2009

Making Teachers Parents

It’s been a long time since I was in kindergarten – I feel all the older just thinking back to those early days. Back then, the first school years of a child’s life were half-days at school, the other half at home.

When I was a kid, way back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth – well not quite – I went to junior kindergarten class for half the day for my first school year, and then I had senior kindergarten for another half-day the following year. It wasn’t until grade one that I was in school for a full day.

I remember coming home from school, and watching eagerly as my mom cut holes in two big plastic garbage bags – one for me, the other for my brother. Mom would cut a hole in the top, and split the seams on both sides, then put these over my brother and I – instant smock to protect us from the messy finger paints we were playing with.

After our half-day classes of kindergarten, mom would read stories to us – my favourite was always James and the Giant Peach, by Ronald Dahl – sing songs to us, and get us involved in crafts and other things that parents do as part of being a parent.

That’s all going to change this coming September in the province of Ontario, Canada, as the province’s leader, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced today that kindergarten will be a full-day starting in the fall.

This is based on a provincial report, which calls for the merging of kindergarten and day care, ironically saying this will increase the amount of time parents spend with their children.

Though the report does call for an increase in parental leave so parents can take more time off work to be with their kids, by placing kids in kindergarten for a full-day instead of the half-day of the past, the province is actually taking away valuable time from the parents.

Granted, not all parents participate actively in their child’s development, and some may see this as a great time saver, because they don’t have to spend all day with their kids, or worry about finding a babysitter or placing the child in daycare for the remainder of the day.

But part of the magic of childhood are those times spent doing things with mom and dad when you’re little – things that many of us remember to this day. These activities help kids bond with their parents, and may even teach both parents and children a thing or two about growing up.

Maybe Ontario’s premier didn’t have any fond memories of after school play with his parents, because he’s taking that time away by enforcing full-day kindergartens province-wide.

It’s another example of how teachers these days are being asked to be more of a parental figure in our blink-and-you-miss-it society. And that’s too bad, because one day, many years from now, these parents will blink, and realize they missed their kids growing up.

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