Which is more important in the experience of a student: a kindergarten teacher or a high school physics teacher?
Whether you follow education or not, it's a question likely to produce interesting discussion around the dinner table, let alone among educators.
Kindergarten teachers regularly get the message that they're viewed as glorified baby sitters. Even if this misperception were true, we've entered a time when the focus on standards and mandatory testing is being pushed down into the laps of those who introduce children to learning. More is expected of students from the moment they first walk through the schoolhouse doors.
This "trickle down" effect is putting new demands on teachers in the rooms with the smallest chairs - people charged with shaping the way children view school for the rest of their lives.
Five-year-olds aren't facing tests that require No. 2 pencils just yet, but curriculum change in kindergarten doesn't mean more nap time, either. Teachers are buzzing about science experiments, and grammar requirements, and a lack of direction.
Here's where guidelines can help. New York City is taking a forward step by offering pamphlets on what students should know after each grade, including the early ones (see story, page 15). Other states are trying similar approaches, and some are targeting kindergarten.
These kinds of resources look promising. For if we don't support those who lay the groundwork, will children even make it to high school physics?
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society