Preschool and Kindergarten Teacher's Views on School Readiness: A Comparison between Silkeborg, Denmark and Truro, Nova Scotia

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Gillis, Jennifer
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The question of which skills children should possess upon entrance into the public school system has been a topic of much debate for decades (Elkind, 2006; Katz, 1996). Due to beliefs and values held by many individuals in North American society, parents often feel pressured to help their children have an edge over other children when it comes to academics and therefore feel the need to expose their children to academic materials from a very young age. Other parents, however, feel that children are best prepared for a successful transition into kindergarten by having lots of opportunity to play, explore and be creative in their formative years. These divergent views often place early childhood educators in a difficult position. They must decide how they will help foster children's growth and development based on what they have learned, what they believe to be true, what they feel parents are looking for in terms of early learning experiences, and which skills teachers expect children to possess when they enter kindergarten. Therefore, this research looks at preschool and kindergarten teachers' views on school readiness in Silkeborg, Denmark and Truro, Nova Scotia. It explored the notion that teachers' perception of readiness can, and do vary, depending on the beliefs and values held by the society in which the teacher lives. It also takes a look into what teachers feel is currently working within their respective settings, how much support they feel they are receiving, and where they would like to see change. Preschool and kindergarten teachers in both communities were sent research packages via their principal or director. Each package contained: 1) a letter outlining the purpose of the research, 2) a demographic survey, 3) a School Readiness Surveys, 4) a consent form to complete if they were willing to participate in an individual interview, and 5) a return envelope. Approximately 60% (n = 93) of the surveys were returned. Eight teachers were interviewed, two preschool teachers and two kindergarten teachers from each community for a total of eight. Results from the survey analysis and the interviews were consistent, indicating few differences by professional group but philosophical and functional differences between responses from teachers in Silkeborg in comparison to teachers in Truro. It appears that both preschool and kindergarten teachers in Silkeborg feel relatively well supported and content. They have a holistic view of children and feel it is their responsibility to keep children engaged in learning. They believe in preschool teachers, teachers parents and communities working together to help make a child's transition into school run smoothly. Conversely, teachers in Truro felt substantially under resourced and often unsupported. They struggle to maintain balance between academics and other skills related to the overall well-being of the child such as social skills, independence and emotional competence. Developmentally appropriate practice seemed to be well understood and often talked about, but not always practiced. Teachers in Truro indicated that they would like to see more support provided to them from their respective government departments. In-service training opportunities should be offered on topics such as developmentally appropriate practice so as to raise the general public awareness regarding how children learn, and therefore lead to a broader understanding of which skills are most valuable for children to possess upon entrance into the public school system.
Silkeborg, Denmark , Early childhood teachers -- Nova Scotia , Early childhood education -- Cross-cultural studies