Last week, Keller Education presented a Webinar entitled “Grade R Matters more than Matric” to the Grade R Parents and Teachers of a 2021 Partner School. The event was dynamic, interactive and participatory.
Several questions were asked during the evening. The questions were so deep, that we felt we would answer them in a blog post.
Question 1: What can I do to support my new Grade R teacher as a parent?
You can be a G.R.E.A.T parent.
G = Gratitude. Always show gratitude. Be grateful for the one who is managing a number of children each day. Always imagine hosting a children’s party in your home with the entire class present and consider how frazzled you would be by the end of the morning. When the parents collect their children, imagine if everyone wanted to find out how their child did at the party. Your child is number one to you, but one of a number in the class. That does not mean that your child is not important. It just means that the child will receive a much smaller percentage of the teacher’s time, but knows that they have a much larger percentage of your time.
R = Read 5-7 times a week to your child. Reading, like eating and sleeping, must be a non-negotiable. Discuss the story. Link it to real life situations. If it includes a difficult subject, deal with it. Talk To and Fro. Build language. Make use of full, complex sentences.
E = Encourage your child’s teacher. Recognise the good work being done at school. If you notice gaps, close them yourself. If there seems to be a personality clash between child and teacher, don’t make a mountain out of it. Rather teach your child strategies regarding how to make their teacher happy. One day they will probably work for a boss with the same personality!
A = Action your support. If the school asks for assistance, roll up your sleeves and do it. In my long career in education I can honestly say that the parents who got involved in the child’s school produced children who were self-confident and competent.
T = Take back parenting and give teaching to the school. From Grade R you become the full time parent. Teach the parenting skills of good manners, respect, how to ask a question, how not to interrupt someone, how to get someone’s attention. Make sure you are sending children to school who are toilet trained, know how to wash their hands and respect other children. Use every opportunity to teach these “prosocial skill”. When teachers TEACH and parents PARENT you have the very best collaboration to build the necessary scaffolding around your child to ensure competence. Finally, never compare your child with other kids in the class. Remember the popcorn metaphor. We all pop at different times.
Question 2: How do I not worry when my child is the “last to pop”?
Only joking! Both my wife and I are well qualified teachers. We agonised over Grade R and Grade 1 with our eldest child. We had never had our OWN child go through school. We were inexperienced parents but experienced teachers. We were called in by the teacher to explain that he had laterality challenges and I wondered if he would ever read. Then he popped. Today he is an insatiable reader, BSc Computer Science graduate and producer of International animation movies leading a huge team of creatives.
Why did we worry? To be honest, we were so scared about what other people might think of two teachers – instead of realising that when he pops he will grow into the man he was destined to be. And he certainly did!
There is too much information for parents. When our kids don’t walk by 13 months – they must have a problem. Not true! If they don’t talk by two – they must have a problem – MYTH! Rather, work hard at avoiding comparisons and read, read, read – play, play, play and reduce screen time for your child.
Keep the relationship with the teacher alive and if you together feel that intervention is necessary, then get a bit of support. My experience is that children with GREAT parents pop within the acceptable range unless there were severe birth challenges like oxygen starvation. And if your husband’s brother is a bit dim – fear not. Gene expression can be dramatically altered by environment. In other words, if the environment in your home is right, it can counter the original genes! Yeah!
Question 3: Could you explain what you mean by “Free Collaborative Play with Distance Oversight” and how we, as parents, can ensure this happens at home?
Such a good question – and I slid over that too quickly in the presentation. Let’s unpack the concept.
1. Free Play – Often we try to organise our child’s play programme. In certain languages like Finnish, there are different words for playing sport, playing a musical instrument and free play. That is because play means different things. But in English and Afrikaans, play could mean so many things. I want your child to be free to play without being guided by a parent, supervisor or screen. In the dark ages, when I was a child – and granted times were different (um, it was 15 years after the first atomic bombs killed millions in two Japanese cities and dictators in Europe had the power to kill millions!), but we were sent out by our parents to “Go and Play!” That instruction basically meant, go and find a friend and play somewhere where if you shouted, mom could hear you!
2. It was free, it was collaborative – others needed to play the game which is vital to learn the prosocial skills of taking turns, shared leadership of game rule development, problem solving and creative thought.
3. It was free, it was collaborative and there is distant oversight – not helicopter parenting. The distant oversight was there to make sure that the children remained safe, secure, seen, soothed if thing go wrong (and then sent back to play with guidance on how to be a problem solver and not a problem maker) and a sense of belonging. Distant oversight does not imply that the adult marches into the game and gives the instruction that they must all “Play nicely”!
The art of free collaborative play is sorting out the social-emotional challenges in order to allow the game to progress without adult interference. We risk creating a play environment where children are taight to run to the adult to solve their problems, instead of learning the skills to sort them out using their words and changing their behaviour.
We so enjoyed this presentation, and hope that this added input will put the icing on the cake to make Grade R 2021, the most amazing experience for parents and children alike.