Long before I became a mom, I was a teacher. I taught pre-K aged children in Baltimore City. I remember hearing daunting statistics that loomed over the children I taught each day. My colleagues and I were determined to help prevent those “facts” from becoming reality for our kids.
The facts on the benefits of pre-K are pretty clear too:
The preschool years are a critical time period for development.
Children in high quality pre-K have strong outcomes which last into adulthood.
Publicly-funded pre-K helps the economy in many, many ways.
Pre-K helps support families.
Pre-K is a powerful crime prevention tool.
Children who enroll in pre-K start school ready to learn.
I learned many of these facts years later in graduate school. They are each powerful, and any one of them could stand alone as reason enough to fund pre-K in our state.
And so while the research and facts are solidly compelling, I still go back to those days of working with three and four year olds to see the true benefit of publicly-funded preschool education.
Each day I taught, I could see the joy as the children entered the room.
I could feel the warmth as they greeted me with hugs.
I noted the wonder as we read new books together, and learned to write, count, create and investigate.
I saw their wheels turning as they experimented at the water table.
I could see their future mommy and daddy selves being nurtured as they cared for their baby dolls.
I heard their diplomacy muscles being flexed as they worked to find peaceful ways to resolve conflicts.
I knew then — in the midst of all those daunting statistics and well before I read the research showing the benefits of pre-K —that what really mattered most were those moments in our classroom.
What mattered was how the children and I spent out days. How we created a joyful learning community where we all felt safe and loved and eager to learn. I knew that it was enough just to value that time we had together.
All of that other stuff I now know…icing on the cake.