Friday, May 16, 2008

Poor Little Ones

“I sit in my middle-school classroom, and the teacher wants us to say good-bye to childhood. I feel at a loss. Happiness is like the twinkling stars suffusing the night sky of childhood. I want only more and more stars. I don't want to see the dawn.”
--Zhou (Bella) Jiaying

I spent, what felt like much of last week, working my way through the recent National Geographic article by Leslie T. Chang. It was really something that caught my attention, but as many of my fellow teachers are aware EOG’s are looming, sapping many teachers of their deep well of energy.

The article spoke of the huge emerging middle class in China and followed one little girl on her path through their education system. It amazed me the similarities between her education and the education that many of our children are headed towards.

I have had several interesting discussions with colleagues this past week about a recent decision by our county to allow kindergarten classrooms to invite play back into their space. Blocks are being brought out of storage. Housekeeping spaces are being reinvented for the little ones. I think the thing that baffled me the most was the thought that there had ever been a logical reasoning for taking these things in the first place.

In fact when I was enlightened to the notion that play had ever been removed from the lower grades it began to dawn on me the effect that this has had as the children continue their progression through the various halls of school. My eyes were opened in understanding at why my fourth grade students might have, what they considered to be a reasonable argument, about who is the rightful owner something as simple as a pencil. They have, it would seem, missed the opportunity during their early stages of development to learn appropriate ways to share.

Perhaps some of you may feel that this is a large stretch of my imagination to have jumped to the aforementioned conclusion, but I would ask you to take a moment to reflect on the children that you know. More and more I find myself surprised at the sheltered innocence of our young people.

Is it possible, that in our pursuit of academic excellence, in our push for children to perform earlier and earlier, we might be insulating and incubating a generation of fearful and self-centered individuals? Is it possible that we are not alone in this pursuit? (The National Geographic article really is quite good.)

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