we always know

You can’t diagnose problems in kindergarten.

Well, really, teachers can’t diagnose anything because we are not medical professionals. According to the press, business leaders and most politicians, we are not even professionals in our own field. Our opinions are suspect. 

I digress. Starting back at the top…

You can’t diagnose problems in kindergarten, but we always know.

We can spot problems even if we don’t have the accurate medical or psychological name for that problem.

We can tell you which kids will probably never pass a standardized test. 

We can tell you if a problem is “just a language thing” (English as a Second Language – ESL) or something that would be a problem EVEN if the child was being taught in his or her native language.

But since we are kindergarten teachers – the lowest rung of the educational ladder – apparently, we are considered silly. 

I’ve been known to be very silly in my classroom. I can dress up or down. I dance badly. I sing loudly. I giggle at jokes that make no sense. 

But when it comes to the issues that I observe in my unending stream of kinders, I am very serious. And my teammates and I know our stuff. 

We know the difference between shyness and autism. 

We know when a speech problem will probably be resolved by time and when one needs intervention by a specialist. 

We know when a phobia is extreme.

We know when a reading problem is severe enough to warrant a cry for help. 

We know when number sense doesn’t make sense and we know how to fix that and we know when we are unable to fix it. 

We know when a developmental delay is simple enough that a child will catch up in a year or two and we know when one is severe enough that it will hinder a child forever. 

We know our own limitations and our own strengths when it comes to fixing these problems.

When I bring a child before the tribunal to decide if his or her issue is of enough importance to call in the specialists and get to the root of the problem, I believe that I have exhausted every other path and that someone else needs to step in on this child’s behalf. 

I KNOW testing and specialists are expensive. I know that the EC teachers’ schedules are overloaded and I know their paperwork is hellacious. But I wouldn’t suggest you spend your precious funding on one of my kids without just cause. I’m not trying to pick your pocket. I’m trying to get help for a child in need.

When I advocate for a child in first grade. In first grade again after he is retained. And again in second grade when I loop with him, I am righteous in my indignation at being ignored and seeing him cast aside year after year. 

“It’s just a language problem.”

Well, yeah. He has trouble learning English (and reading and math and science and his lunch number and everything else) because he has trouble learning and everything I have done hasn’t cracked his code. 

So it isn’t just a language problem.

A wise speech teacher once told me, “Always advocate for your kids in the lowest grades because you ALWAYS know.” I told him that no one ever listened to us. He replied, “And how many times has your analysis of a problem been found to be true later on?” MANY times. “And what grade do they usually start paying attention to problems?”

Third grade. When standardized End of Grade tests begin in our state. After all the red tape, they start getting help in fourth grade, but they are typically so far behind at that point that it’s too late. 

But his words stuck with me. And I continue to push for my kids. They deserve better than being written off for 3-4 years. They deserve the help and services that could make all the difference in their future. 

Because we always know. 



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