Obama visits Decatur pre-k today: A teacher suggests what else he should see

President Obama visits a Decatur pre-k today. (AJC photo)

President Obama visits a Decatur pre-k today. (AJC photo)

Here is a piece by Robyn Tedder, who taught kindergarten as a Teach For America corps member in Metro Atlanta. She now works on TFA staff to support pre-k and kindergarten and teachers throughout the region.

By Robyn Tedder

On Tuesday, President Obama called the nation’s attention to the need for high-quality early education – highlighting the gap between the long-term success we envision for our kids, and the foundations we lay in their young lives.

For those of us in the world of early education, these words felt like a breath of fresh air – validation of the deep urgency and almost overwhelming opportunity we see in classrooms day in and day out. And here in Georgia, they made us proud to be named an exemplar – one of just a few states to have prioritized our youngest learners.

Today, the President visits Decatur’s College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center to see our commitment to pre-K in action. And as we wait to hear more about his vision for early education nationwide, here in Atlanta, we know that we must redouble our efforts, and that to charge ahead in this position of leadership, we must grapple with a set of complex, challenging questions.

First, how will we define “high-quality” early education for our students?

Second, how deep is our commitment to ensuring that this is available to every child, regardless of race or economic background?

And third, how will we shift our collective thinking such that the foundational skills of early childhood are regarded not as basic skills, but as life’s most critical?

I began teaching kindergarten in 2009 at Bolton Academy in Atlanta. Now, I work to support early childhood educators throughout the metro area as they seek to build classrooms that set their kids up for long-term success. If I were the President’s tour guide today, I’d want him to see not just the great work going on in these classrooms, but the tremendous spirit of partnership behind the early childhood work we’re seeing in Atlanta.

I’d want him to see, for example, how educators at Drew Charter School are putting research to work, capitalizing on findings from the Atlanta Speech School’s Rollins Center on the importance of language acquisition in academic, social, and cognitive development. Bridging theory and practice, teachers at Drew now lead classrooms in which language is the heartbeat – the soundtrack to which children do math problems, read stories, resolve conflicts, sing, play, grow and excel.

With the President’s words ringing in our ears, the time has come to recommit ourselves to this work in earnest – to learn from exemplars and share the research and resources to lay a strong foundation for lifelong learning for all our children.

Three- and 4-year-olds stand at a critical moment in their neurological, academic and socio-emotional development – one on which our shared economic and moral future depends. And as we stand at a critical moment of our own, for them, like us, there is no time like the present.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

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Comprehension 101

February 14th, 2013
4:44 am

What the President should see is total transparency. He should see teachers working hard to make children love to read and even analyze at a young age. He should see children think outside of the box and have no fears to express their opinions.
Now, he should also see educators that are willing to discuss furloughs, salary decreases and how this is affecting their lives. He should see teachers who are beeseeching him to research Common Core and what is REALLY best for the students and not jump on the band-wagon every time some new so-called profound educational theory comes about. . He should also see a profession that is tired of only verbally being placed on a pedestal and be offered some real money for being professionals with various advanced degrees who produce the doctors, attorneys, presidents and so forth. Let’s Uplift the Profession Mr. President. Understand that educators are with the students, in most cases, more than the parents!!!!

MiltonMan

February 14th, 2013
6:30 am

Hilarious that Obama is visiting College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center which is currently on “winter break” and the kids are out on “vacation”. The kids are being asked to come back to school for this “wonderful” photo-op.

Also, if this center is a prime example of what is good in education, how come DeKalb county has some of the worse schools in the state???

catlady

February 14th, 2013
6:54 am

Ms. Tedder has gone from non-traditionally-trained person to teacher to support staff for TFA in less than 4 years? Amazing!

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
7:06 am

Mr. Obama is probably having a busy day today and won’t read this, but doesn’t it seem like that guy has no friends? What I mean by that, is you would think he would be networking and friending with ideologue visionaries in industry and medicine and such. What brought this thought was reading that Obama references Germany for pre-K while the same week Bill Gates references Scandinavia, and I guess their two worlds collide over at the federal DOE and result in “Race to the Top,” which makes no sense at all. And why isn’t Obama titling a glass of champagne with Vint Cerf and talking about what’s best for internet in America? Obama seems very alone and he seems very controlled. He really has two sides.

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
7:09 am

Why the hype speak? Seriously, why?

to see our commitment to pre-K in action

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
7:12 am

It’s like everybody has to be playing rooster and “Top Gun” with the hype and “empowerment” talk. If you wake up sane on a quiet peaceful morning, it looks pretty foul. Surely there’s money in it. The sheer amount of bullies in education management is just unbearable.

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
7:20 am

He should see children think outside of the box

OMG please, stop! What is wrong with you? Now you’re using little kids as objects of your projection and hype while you repeat trite motivational phrases. Hey friend, motivational activities is not teaching and does not build a foundation of knowledge, it’s a factory that produces idiots with little formalised knowledge as foundation for higher learning. Your describing a zombie training camp. Emote! Jump! Invent!

PS Everyone has their own way of thinking and this is what is supposed to be nurtured. It’s called identity formation. The point is, you do not have the right to usurp someone else’s identity.

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
7:46 am

catlady, yes this seems example of what they say about “Teach for America” when the person puts their toe into the water of the work, using a bunch of time and resources of others who are expected to “mentor” them, and soon the TFA person jumps into a career management position the-hell away from the classroom. Ugh-huh. Good call spotting that.

The Deal

February 14th, 2013
7:48 am

MiltonMan, Decatur has a school system that is completely separate from DeKalb County. Decatur schools are very successful.

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
7:49 am

Call it snarkiness, call it critical thinking, in these discussions and responses, there is a lot of seeing through to the other side of the mirrored door, which is a good thing.

Shelley

February 14th, 2013
7:54 am

If you worked at a school, ad you were on winter break, and the President’s office called and said that he would like to visit your school to commend you, what would you do? Say, “Sorry! We’re closed!” or invite kids back in to school for a day to have an amazing oportunity to meet an American president. Since I work in PR, I know that a lot of life is staged. But these kids and families and the area take so much pride in the quality school that Decatur’s high taxes go toward funding. Milton Man, I think this is a-ok. We’ve had such a focus on terrible things happen at schools lately, and this is a kudos to our metro area, to Decatur, and to good kids and a good school.

IggyDad

February 14th, 2013
8:15 am

MiltonMan, that is false. The pre-school is open all week. The elementary school is closed today. Also, this is a City of Decatur school, not part of the DeKalb County school system. City of Decatur schools do very well and are highly regarded.

But you still miss the point. You would see a difference in the children’s performance AFTER they had gone through one of these programs. If DeKalb starts some of these early learning centers, even if they are effective, I can just imagine you shrieking about how lousy their high school graduation rates are the following year.

Brit

February 14th, 2013
8:56 am

Milton Man, here’s some advice. Do some research before you post. You make yourself look idiotic. The reasons Obama isn’t coming to Milton are obvious….
Just to clarify, the Pre-K classes of College Heights ARE on break this week. They are part of the City of Decatur school system. I was there this morning and all the teachers and nearly all the kids showed up. Everyone is delighted to come to school, meet the president and celebrate the hard work of our fabulous teachers. The reasons he chose CHELC are obvious 1) Decatur had the highest % of votes for Obama in GA 2) it is part of the only successful ITP public school system in GA. No probations. No cheating scandals 3) it is also the only dedicated Pre-K that serves an entire city’s 4 year olds in the metro. Elsewhere, public Pre-K spots are offered at daycares or attached to elementary schools. 4) The fact the schools are out was obviously planned on purpose.

Google "NEA" and "union"

February 14th, 2013
9:03 am

@ Puerile Citizen: You post too much, and add little of substance to any dialog. Just sayin’.

Homeschool Mom

February 14th, 2013
9:09 am

3 and 4 year old children belong at HOME! They should not be subjected to government indoctrination.

Dr. LLC

February 14th, 2013
10:10 am

Lucky for you that you can stay at home with your homes. Do you know that there are at-risk kids in this country who have parents who are challenged with their parenting skills? Do you know that quality preschool is an intervention to help these kids? Do you know that this is a national security issue? Do you know that in order for YOUR kids to have a good future, at-risk kids need help so that they can be strong contributors to the economy?

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Brit

February 14th, 2013
11:27 am

Homeschool Mom. God forbid your children will get to mix with other children! Obviously you think it’s better to keep them locked up in your home so you can indoctrinate them with your own particular world view. I feel sorry for your children.

RCB

February 14th, 2013
11:43 am

Brit…why would a parent want to foist their children on a government run pre-school between birth and 3 years old if they can accomplish the same goals at home??? Just because a parent chooses to PARENT doesn’t mean their children are cloistered and afraid to meet other children who are different from them. That’s ridiculous. Government and/or schools will never replace an involved parent, no matter how much it is legislated.

Brit

February 14th, 2013
12:28 pm

RCB, this iis about Head Start and Pre-K ( ages 3-4) The reasons I send my children to state Pre-K are not because of i dont choose to parent. My children could read before they started Pre-K ( I taught them myself, but I have no intention of home-schooling them untit they are 18. How ridiculous.) The lessons of public Pre-K go far beyond things that parents can teach at home. It socializes them with children from different backgrounds and makes them more independent. Their curriculum includes math, growing their own food, even yoga. Schools cannot replace absentee parenting, but if they intervene early enough they can help alleviate it.

Dave

February 14th, 2013
12:57 pm

Dekalb county was the highest % of Obama votes in GA….THAT PUTS RANKS THEM AS THE #2 IDIOT VOTERS in the state of GA, only slightly better than Clayton county who put a convict back in office…. I wonder what Obama, the majority of Dekalb voters and Clayton county voters have in common??

Joe

February 14th, 2013
2:11 pm

“wonder what Obama, the majority of Dekalb voters and Clayton county voters have in common??” Let me guess….they’re not as ignorant as Dave?

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
2:35 pm

NEA and Union searcher, something tells me I do a little more work than you, a little more real work. Why do I say that? Because I invariably do real work. And this gives a different perspective. Go do some work and report back. Definition of work being to “produce,” not “represent.”

To the marketing person, are you sure you don’t work in the military? There the ones with official doctrine about “managing perceptions.” They sure didn’t used to be about that. The whole country didn’t used to be about that, it used to be about production. See the dirt? That’s where iron comes from. See the iron? Look, a car!

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
2:41 pm

The main change I’ve seen in Decatur is that, like many economically upscale areas, it used to have things for kids. Those things are gone. Now they have playgrounds for adults, places with maitre-d and cash register. And the people who waltz the streets complain about the cost of Fernbank, but the same people complaining do not fund taking kids on bus there (or give the slightest concern about school kids across the state who do not have eyeglasses). The prior generations used to care for the kids. The present success generation cares for THEMSELVES only.

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
2:41 pm

Or making sure school kids go to see the symphony, I might add.

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
2:51 pm

At the risk of being crude, I’ll be honest with you. The bartenders and waitstaff at that Ted’s buffalo restaurant are some of the most unprofessional hillbillies I’ve ever seen posing as wait staff in a major metropolitan area. They seem used to playing nice / dumb with the local monied / yuppied, who no doubt like to be doted on. Decatur may have good schools and a nice private little school district, and good for them, maybe they’ve made a model for everyone else, but the area around the main square has definitely suffered a shift to drowning in disposable income yuppy invasion.
Didn’t that used to be a bank on the corner?

PS when I was a kid I used to take the bus from downtown Decatur to downtown Atlanta, or the other way around, from downtown Atlanta to downtown Decatur. Point is there were two public libraries, the downtown Atlanta branch and the Decatur Maud M. Burris Library. Well, since then they changed the name of the Decatur library (why is the world would you do that?) and eliminated the bus line. Charming, eH? Shutdown the connecting bus line. Oh wait, I guess you can take the train, now.

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
2:56 pm

Where did the term “pre-K” come from? The term does not make sense. Do you mean “kindergarten?”

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
2:56 pm

You know, good solid noun, correct use of terms?

Private Citizen

February 14th, 2013
5:06 pm

preschool + kindergarten = “pre-K” yikes.
__________

Great lead photo of little angels. Read somewhere that the personality is fully formed by age 5 or somesuch.

KEB

February 14th, 2013
5:22 pm

MiltonMan, what are you talking about?

Decatur City Schools is a separate school system independent of Dekalb County Schools. It is one of the best school systems in the state.

Brit

February 14th, 2013
5:58 pm

@KEB, MiltonMan keeps posting the same rubbish on various threads. No one know what he’s talking about. Clearly he doesn’t even know himself.

Norwegian Blue

February 15th, 2013
8:25 am

“Pre-K” is common shorthand in education for classes intended for children before they’re old enough for kindergarten. It’s no more dire a usage than pre-med or pre-law in hire education, or pre-amp in audio, or pre-cooling in the HVAC industry, or pre-trip inspections in trucking.

“Correct use of terms” is a concept that varies over time, because the way that people use the language alters the language. Otherwise “nice” would still mean silly or foolish, and “dissolve” would still mean detach or loosen (as in “dissolve the political bands which have connected [one people] with another”).

Roberta

February 16th, 2013
3:48 pm

Homeschool mom, I hear you! I am tired of paying $$$$ in taxes for early childhood programs that government studies show have no lasting effects after 4th grade. Where is the support for parents to raise their children at HOME?! As for ’sheltering your kids from the world’, well here in our area we have a large home school community that meets once or twice a week for a half day. We see plenty of kids, meet many families, participate in many activities. Yes some homeschooler moms shelter their kids, but some do get out in the world!