Sunday, July 19, 2015

What *is* TK??


So, over the past weekend I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to explain to my aunt (who is from Texas) the wonders of what I do. I gushed and I enthused. I shared about the wonderful things I get to do with my kiddos each year, and planning for subsequent years. I went on for about thirty minutes before she stopped me with a question that had me frozen in shock: 

"What is tk??"

What is tk? WHAT IS TK? I was so shocked it took me a hot minute to really form a decent answer for her. I had, in my blissful ignorance, assumed that EVERYONE knew about TK. What it was, how amazing it was to teach it, the benefits...what "TK" even stood for. I was so surprised to find that this is definitely not the case!

Now, I want to put a disclaimer out there: I AM NOT AN EXPERT! These answers are based on information I have received from my district, some personal researche I have done on my own time, and discussing with other TK teachers. These answers are not written in stone, and more often than not will change in the future. I just want to shed a little light on the TK world. 

1. What is TK?
TK (also known as Transitional Kindergarten) is a new program being implemented in the state of California. As far as it has been explained to me, California is trying to split kindergarten into two years. The first year is TK. It is different from preschool and PreK, as well as regular kindergarten (those differences will be explained in a later question.) TK is completely optional. It is not mandatory in the state of California to have your child in school until they reach the age of 6, so TK and kindergarten are not mandatory at all. (I think they should be but, that's just me.)

2. What does TK consist of?
A day in TK is very different from a day in kindergarten. My day consists of teaching reading, writing, math, science, social sciences, P.E. and art. On top of all of this I also focus a good chunk of my time for developmental play. My principal actually wants me to focus a good 45 minutes each day on just developmental play because that is the distinguishing factor between TK and kindergarten. 

Expectations will vary from site to site, as well as district to district. In my TK students are expected to learn their ABCs, 123s, sounds, and basic sight words (my rainbow program that I created for my class consists of 30 sight words.)  I focus on teaching the mechanics of scissor working, holding a pencil, proper glue etiquette, and peer-to-peer interactions. I work towards writing a complete sentence by the end of the year so when they move on to kindergarten, they can focus on putting simple sentences together to form easy paragraphs. My job is to prep the students I get and help them get ready for a year in a regular kindergarten class. Hopefully, if I've done my job properly, kindergarten teachers can focus their attention on students who haven't been exposed to academic concepts. Basically, kindergarten teachers get to spread themselves a little less thin because a portion of their students (the ones who came from me) will have already mastered certain things (ex: their ABCs, 123s, writing their name, beginning reading and writing skills etc.)

3. How is TK different from preschool or PreK?
A lot of this is actually licensing. To be a preschool or PreK teacher in my district you have to have special early childhood development credits. I must have a valid California teaching credential, BUT (please notice the bolding and underline) that is because I have been "granfathered" into the program. (This will be discussed in the next question.) 

TK is also different from preschool and PreK because EVERYTHING I do is 100% aligned with the kindergarten California common core standards. I cannot speak for every preschool or preK class, but that is the stipulation laid down for me by MY DISTRICT. I must follow the CCSS in everything I do, and everything I do must be justified by a standard. The only aspect of my classroom day that is not aligned to the standards is my "developmental play time" and again, this is something I am required to focus on. (My background is 3 years of kindergarten instruction so cutting a big chunk out of my day for this is tough for me because I can think of so many more ways to use it.)

4. Do TK teachers need to be credentialed? Do they need the ECD (early childhood development) credits like a preschool teacher?
Yes. Every TK teacher must hold a valid teaching credential. On the website it states: "Yes, in California, TK teachers need to have a teaching credential, just like Kindergarten teachers." {source found here} The ECD credits is where it gets a bit tricky. I do NOT have any required ECD units. (My emphasis was in Early Childhood Development and Early Psychological Development but I do not have the necessary units to be a preschool teacher.) The reason I do not need to go back to get my ECD units is because I was "grandfathered" into the program. Basically, I was hired before the state of California set down specific guidelines on what is necessary to be a TK teacher. Again, on the website it states: 

That "a school district or charter school shall ensure that credentialed teachers who are first assigned to a TK classroom after July 1, 2015, have, by August 1, 2020, one of the following:
  1. At least 24 units in early childhood education, or childhood development, or both.
  2. As determined by the LEA employing the teacher, professional experience in a classroom setting with preschool age children that is comparable to the 24 units of education described in bullet 1.
  3. A child development teacher permit issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). " {source}

Now, Nichole, you just said YOU don't have any special ECD units. How do you qualify?? And you are 100% justified in asking that question. As I mentioned before I was "grandfathered" in. If you continue reading on that page it continues to say:
"Any current credentialed teacher who is or was assigned to teach TK, or a combination class of kindergarten and TK, on or before July 1, 2015, is “grandfathered in” to teach TK without having to meet additional requirements. Any credentialed teacher assigned to teach TK, or a combination class of kindergarten and TK, after July 1, 2015, will have until August 1, 2020, to meet the above-mentioned education requirements." {source}

I was hired July 27, 2014. I eventually will have to go back (simply because I want to at this point) and get the units, but it isn't required of me just yet. 

5. How does a student qualify for TK vs. Kindergarten?
Right now, this is very simple to explain. Way back when I was in school, the cutoff for kindergarten was December 2. California has slowly been moving back the cutoff date. As of right now, it is Sept 1. I get the kids that have birthdays that fall from September 2 - December 2, so they are 4 when they start in my class. They are too young for kindergarten, and too old for preschool. SEND THEM TO ME! They are developmentally at the age where the extra time in TK will benefit them and send them on to a successful academic career. They will be starting with other kids their age, but they will be starting kindergarten AHEAD. I love that idea. 

6. What if a kid is ready for 1st grade at the end of TK? Do they still have to go through the year of kindergarten as well?
This answer is tricky. I don't like jumping kids up. I never have. (I was a candidate as a child and I thank my lucky stars my parents decided against it for me.) By the book, kids must enroll in kindergarten after they finish TK. BUT (and this is a BIG but) there are exceptions to that rule. Last year I had a little boy that came to me advanced. He knew 99% of everything I was going to teach him through out the year and the only reason he wasn't in Kindergarten is strictly because he missed the cut off by a week or two. I taught him above his grade and challenged him with standard kindergarten materials because I didn't want him to get bored. I was approached by my principal and instructed to give a handful of students the ending kindergarten assessment (parents were requesting that they jump.) The required pass rate to jump was 100%...he passed it with 100% accuracy. 

Long story short, if they are 100% ready they can jump (based on your district's requirements) but I rarely recommend it. I think each grade offers their own unique focus and developmental challenges that skipping isn't the best option. (I'll get off my soap box now.)

7. What does a typical day in TK look like? (Daily routine)
I have an early bird/late bird schedule. So my day goes as follows:

7:45-8:30 Universal Access/Developmental playtime (this is when I do assessments, and guided reading/writing)
8:30-8:40 Morning warm-up (clean up and dances)
8:40-8:45 Late birds show up
8:45-9:00 breakfast for the class
9:00-9:30 carpet time/calendar/morning meeting (this takes place on the carpet and is where I do the majority of my teaching)
9:30-9:45 morning math (introduction of the concept)
9:45-10:00 morning recess
10:00-10:15 Math seat work
10:15-10:45 Phonics/ELA time
10:45-11:00 clean up (early birds pack up to go home from cafeteria) line up
11:00-11:40 lunch and lunch recess
11:40-12:25 Universal access/developmental playtime (for late birds)
12:25-12:35 afternoon cool down (clean up and dances)
12:35-12:45 final message (positive shares and thoughts)
12:45 go home

My ELA time and Math time gets the art, science, social sciences, and P.E. all rolled into it. Certain days will have specific lessons, but for the most part that is my typical routine. 

Well I hope I have answered everyone's questions! If I didn't please feel free to leave one in the comments and I'll either make a follow up blog post or I'll answer directly in the comments!

Thank you so much for everyone's feedback and giving me a general idea of what you want to know. I hope it was helpful!

Always remember, every moment can be a learning moment!

Sincerely from TK,
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