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Stevens Primary teacher tries to create connections

A love for young children and a passion for laying a strong foundation for future learning is what drew Carol Fischer to the teaching profession.

For the past 36 years, Fischer, who currently teaches kindergarten at Stevens Primary School in the Williamsport Area School District, has seen children come through the doors of a school building and take their place in her classroom. That much has not changed. But, so much more has.

Coming to the education profession in 1983, Fischer shared, is different from where education is today.

“This profession has changed drastically over the past 36 years,” Fischer said.

Speaking about her area of expertise, Fischer said, “The kindergarten of present day is more like the first grade of 36 years ago. Play has been replaced by academics. Naptime and snacktimes are things of the past.

“Kindergarten students are taking assessments, learning to read and becoming writers. Thirty-six years ago, I was teaching the alphabet and letter sounds. Kindergarteners today are adding and subtracting, identifying counts and taking assessments, which allows us to gather data and differentiate instruction. Thirty-six years ago, I was teaching numbers, counting and shapes,” she added.

Fischer acknowledges that change is inevitable in everything, but that it often presents challenges.

“These challenges affect both the teacher and the students. Sometimes, the changes can be overwhelming, but because of the love for teaching, teachers take on the challenges and give all they have to help their students succeed,” she said.

“Straying from developmentally appropriate practices, such as play and socialization time, have been frustrating to both teachers and parents. Many parents believe teachers make these decisions, but it is the state education system that we need to follow. We always have the students’ best interest in mind and try our best to help them make the benchmarks that are set for them,” Fischer stressed.

Fischer began her teaching career at a small school in the Catholic school system where she said there was more of a family environment with parents being very involved in their children’s education.

“We were so connected to families that, to this day, I remember the students that I taught my first year,” she said.

When asked if she sees a difference in the students coming into her classroom today, Fischer cited the stressors that affect family life.

“This in turn affects parent involvement. I strive to create a connection with parents, since I believe, as a team, we can provide success for all students. As a school, we have tried to reduce some of the stressors, by providing food bags on Fridays and offering educational programs for parents in the evenings,” she said.

She cautioned, though that the rise in technology has had an affect on students entering school for the first time.

“The students have changed greatly throughout the years. Social skills have been detrimentally affected by the use of technology during the early years. Parents need to recognize the importance of oral language with their preschoolers. Our youngest children need to learn how to talk to others, interact with others, and that can’t happen in front of a screen. As teachers, we are finding that we are taking on more and more in the classroom. Skills that used to be taught at home are now being taught in the classroom,” she said.

With her years of experience, Fischer shared that she has concerns about the problem of “teacher burnout” in the future.

“By nature, teachers are nurturers, looking to care for others first. Every year, more and more is required of teachers. Discipline issues are always a challenge, on top of the state’s requirements. These combined are very stressful. Teachers need an outlet, to help deal with these stresses and keep their sights on those students that really want to learn. Programs to help with these stressors need to be looked at as a way to prevent burnout. We worry about all of our students — the ones we can’t reach, which can be heartwrenching; the ones that share our passion for learning, continue to drive our passion and keep us doing our best,” she added.

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