Teachers love full-day kindergarten

News editor

When Lana Stevenson and Katie Rahe began teaching kindergarten in Marion, each more than a decade ago, the expectations of what a kindergartner should be capable of at the end of the school year were lighter than now.

When they started teaching, the expectations were that kindergartners have the basics of letters and sounds, but now they are expected to be able to read and write sentences by the end of the year, Stevenson said.

When the expectations were more basic, half-day kindergarten was fine, but the higher expectations take more time.

“We love having all-day kindergarten,” Rahe said. “I can’t imagine not having all-day kindergarten.”

The longer hours allow the teachers to spend time on fun and socialization that wouldn’t be possible with a half day.

“They can actually act like they’re 5 years old,” Stevenson said.

The day remains focused on learning because of the demands of state standards, but full-day kindergarten allows for a 75-25 or 70-30 split of academic and social development, Stevenson said. At such an early age, the difference between children whose birthdays are 10 months apart can be significant.

Rahe and Stevenson said that if a parent is concerned that a 5-year-old whose birthday is in the summer isn’t ready for kindergarten, that is a sign that it’s probably best to keep them out of school for another year.

Nobody knows whether a child is ready better than the parents, they agreed. On the other hand, they don’t feel a need to push every child through kindergarten in a single year.

They said they see it not as much as a grade level but as a developmental stage. If a child isn’t ready to move on from kindergarten to first grade, they don’t see a problem with repeating kindergarten. Stevenson said she has known children who repeated kindergarten and went on to be good students as they got older.

Stevenson has taught at Marion Elementary School for 16 years. She got her teaching degree with an emphasis in early childhood education from Emporia State University. Before teaching at Marion, she was a substitute teacher.

Rahe has taught in Marion for 13 years. She got her teaching degree from Fort Hays State University. She was a parent-volunteer in Stevenson’s classroom before becoming a teacher herself.

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