Early Childhood Classroom - Students Ages 5 to 6
Students in this classroom are at a pivotal stage. Studies in early childhood development have long shown that negative experiences during these foundational years will have lasting effects on the child throughout their school years. One study showed that it took three consecutive years of high-quality teachers to overcome the harm done to a child by one poor-quality teacher. A recent study by Vanderbilt University shows an increase both in behavior problems and referrals to special education all the way into 6th grade for students who attended high-pressured, predominantly academic-focused preschool programs as a 4 year old.
In the last few decades the mantra, “the earlier the better” has overtaken early childhood education. While this is certainly true when it comes to medical intervention, e.g. children born with developmental disabilities, it is not true of academic instruction. The human brain is ready for intellectual concepts when it is ready for them–we cannot rush that growth process any more than we can force a child’s body to reach a certain height by a certain date.
Lower Elementary Classroom - Students Ages 6 to 8
Students in this classroom are at an energetic stage of life! Emerging readers are transitioning to independent readers and are thrilled at their newfound ability to pick up any book and understand its contents. If provided with the right literature, this is the stage when children can develop a voracious reading habit that will last a lifetime. Similarly, elements of mathematics gel during these years and children can develop a true awe for the power and flexibility of numbers, mathematical operations, and our base-10 system.
Children at this age have a tremendous ability to focus for long periods of time when engaged in a project of their own design. They are developing the maturity and mental capacity to plan, implement, and adjust through multiple iterations of a project until they satisfy their curiosity. Adults often marvel at how hard children this age will work in order to play! They are also forming critical social skills during this phase as they move from parallel play to interactive, communal play. All social systems, but especially rules governing what is fair, become deeply important to them as they move from complete dependence on adults to their first experiences with managing group dynamics on their own.
Upper Elementary Classroom - Students Ages 8 to 10
Students in the upper elementary classroom are seeking meaningful work. They are leaving behind the blind enthusiasm of the previous stage and becoming more concerned with understanding why something is important before they will wholeheartedly commit to it. They are strongly motivated by the discovery of connections across subjects and time precisely because the concepts of intention, meaning, and purpose are, increasingly, becoming a focus of their lives.
Children of this age can be either balky or mischievious to work with if their teacher is not clever enough to engage with them at their level. Woe to the humorless task-master! Children in this stage will not tolerate dry, rote instruction that doesn’t make time for nuanced explanations, thoughtful tangents, and an endless repertoire of cringe-worthy puns dropped at regular intervals.