For obvious reasons, schools are focused on immediate results. Children need to learn one thing before they can add on to that knowledge, and most curricula compartmentalizes skills and knowledge by grade level. I have always loved early childhood because there is a bit more leeway with what happens from day to day. In my experience, there is not a rush to get a certain amount of academic content done in a certain week because there are not multiple tests throughout the year.
It is really difficult to look at the big picture when there is so much happening in our daily lives. Yet when you think of your adult life and the skills that you are using, aren't many of them related to your social and emotional development? We need to interact with people in acceptable ways in order to get things done, from co-workers to life partners to the grocery store clerk.
This video, from Google, was what triggered reflection on the link between social-emotional development and the future. You do not need to be a parent to understand the importance of high-quality education. The future we all dream of - the one we are building now - is in the hands of future innovators. Our social policies and practices in the future will be more encompassing of all kinds of people if children's growing knowledge of the social world is supported.
When I was in between preschool teaching jobs in the past, people would ask me why I had not applied for my state teaching certificate and a Kindergarten job. I would reply that preschool is different than Kindergarten, and I love teaching three- to five-year-olds. I love stopping the plan I made to follow a thread that the children are interested in. I love that every single second of a preschool day is a teachable moment, from being able to sit next to someone to persevering through the construction of a block tower that keeps falling down. Creating an environment that children feel safe in, and want to play in, means that learning can happen. My job as a classroom teacher is to support children with whatever they are working on, from sharing to writing their name. That spectrum is enormous, and those needs do not disappear in Kindergarten or beyond. The focus shifts to data and testing, so although the social and emotional needs are there, there is less time for the teacher to focus on them. With testing, a teacher's time is spread thin, and only the most passionate are going to prioritize social and emotional development. It takes time and energy far beyond those in-school hours, but we are likely setting children up to be the innovators we need. We still have the ability to focus a large amount of time on social and emotional learning in preschool.
The world is changing rapidly, and it is difficult to say what technologies we will be working on in 20 years, when current preschoolers become working adults in our society. But isn't it true that they will need to be competent, open-minded communicators?