Post by: Debbie Guilfoyle, Executive Director at Crosstown Learning Center
I am honored to be asked to contribute to the Sprouts website. I hope all of you that are accessing the information find it to be helpful.
I have been Executive Director at Crosstown Learning Center for almost 12 years, and have been forever blessed by having the honor of working with an incredible staff, board of directors, colleagues, and of course, wonderful children and their families. I have learned much, laughed a lot, cried some tears and hopefully, through all of the years, had an opportunity to impact the quality that is offered to children enrolled in early care and learning.
Oklahoma, and especially Tulsa, have been national leaders in understanding and implementing the processes that need to be in place to ensure that children receive the best possible care afforded to them, and, also have the opportunity to learn and master skills as they develop through their infancy, toddler and preschool years. Because of all the work that has been done before us, we know now that children who are in high quality early care and learning environments as “little people,” are better prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn.
One of the terms I find that interests me the most in our field is being “school ready.” What does being school ready mean? Are you looking for your child to be able to write his name, count to 100, know his alphabet and maybe, if you are so inclined, have him/her fully fluent in Spanish, or French by the time he or she enters kindergarten? I’d like you to consider the thought that being “school ready” is much more than mastering the academics that parents are so eagerly watching for their children to master as they bring home their “worksheets” from school.
At Crosstown, we focus on the identified domains of early childhood education that have been developed through a research based curriculum. There are many, but the one that we believe to be critical to a child’s success is their social-emotional development. Children must know how to regulate their own emotions and behaviors; they need to be able to establish and sustain positive relationships and, finally, they need to be able to participate cooperatively and constructively in group situations (Teaching Strategies, 2010).
We know if children have mastered their social-emotional development that is appropriate for this age, they can learn anything. But, without those skills, they and their teachers spend most every day working on “the basics” of being in group situations before they can begin working on academics. It’s imperative that we send them “ready to learn,” so that all of the other tasks that are in front of them can be mastered.
I have the honor of being “Grammie” to two wonderful grandsons. Our oldest grandson is in the fifth grade and is an amazing little boy. He was just awarded “Outstanding Student” at his elementary school in the category of “Obedience.” Ethan will continue to be a star student, learn a great deal, and be successful because of the many people who love him and surround him with good guidance and support. Ethan is mastering the skills he needs to be a strong student. We are very proud. Our youngest grandson is just beginning his journey into this great big world. He will celebrate his third birthday soon, and what a joy he has been, and continues to be, to our entire family. I marvel at the devotion from his mom and dad as they guide him through learning and mastering his social emotional development. Benjamin has just started pre-school and is learning, with his mom and dad’s guidance, and the help of a wonderful teacher, how to be a “friend” to his classmates through mastering the skills of his social emotional development.
So, for all the hard work, long days, full of frustration and self-doubt that we all felt or feel as parents, know that the time you spend with your child, helping them negotiate through complex social situations will pay off a hundred times a hundred-fold.
I encourage each of you to have a conversation with your child – at our house, that was always an ice cream date with Dad. Take the time to learn what is happening in their world; what are their joys and frustrations; what are their challenges and their successes. To this day, our daughters still request “ice cream dates with Dad,” just to stay connected. I couldn’t ask for more.
Watching them master their worlds, no matter how large or how small, is one of the greatest gifts we have as parents, grandparents, or care-givers.
Enjoy these wonderful, busy and exciting years. Love them, guide them, and nurture them. You’ll be glad you did!