Saturday, February 1, 2014

They will save what they love

Every child should grow up in complete awe and respect of our Earth…perceiving the planet as a secure, wonderful, and safe place.  The burden of saving the Earth is too heavy for their little shoulders.  So, I absolutely suggest ignorance on environmental issues for young children.  There are so many Earth friendly habits you can instill without instilling panic at the same time.  ...because dedication and love never grow from pity.  A deeply ingrained feeling of helplessness and fear never makes anyone feel empowered to change the future.  Knowledge of Earth’s troubles, of distressing headlines, and even of its endangered animals can wait for a later age.  Instead, focus on instilling reverence and love for all of nature and its inhabitants.  Make sure nature’s beauty is the play space that occupies their childhood memories…and the desire to save it will follow.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I don't get it...

Over a year and a half ago, I was sitting in a big district board room filled with empty chairs, and waiting for a board meeting to start when a friend of my mother’s approached me.  Her son went to school in my district and she was there to present flowers to her child’s teacher. 

She started telling me about her son and his class, “His class uses ipads!  Can you believe it?  When I was a kid I wasn’t smart enough to use an ipad, but kids these days are so much smarter.”  

She had no idea that I was holding in my hand a speech to the school board questioning the reason behind prioritizing the purchase of technology over an investment in their teachers…I nodded and said pleasantly, “Oh…uh huh…”  

But even though I've heard something similar from other people, it was her brief talk with me stuck in my mind all this time because she very simply laid out the misconception that most of the general public has: the mistake of equating the use of technology with intelligence.  

…and I don’t get it.    

While I agree that there are many brilliant people that use technology, and there are amazing things you can do with it.  I don’t agree that improved cognitive abilities are caused by the use of such devices, or a prerequisite for using the device, nor do I believe that the human brain in this time period is somehow more “enhanced” than those of people who grew up in a time without technology.  ...if anything, we have to compensate for less of a capacity to create, cope with stress, and be attentive.
Never mind that it would be a very bad business move for technology companies to make something that only geniuses could use…  It is however a terrific business move to convince the world that the children who use their products will somehow become brilliant because of it, or are brilliant simply because they can use it (and don’t get me started on technology corporate interests in public education).  The message people are unknowingly applying to their values from this is that accomplishing something with minimal effort, with speed, with just a click…means that person is “smarter”.

…and yes, it sounds ridiculous…but this notion is everywhere.  Districts and educators are praised for encouraging their students to stay glued to a screen during recess.  Video recording a “book report” is preferable over handwriting and illustrating.  Students sitting in front of screens is more acceptable than kids sculpting with clay.  Commercials on TV advertise the merits of handing the duty of reading with your child over to a device.  …and parents are so impressed with their child’s ability to play with a user friendly device like an ipad.  

We should absolutely take advantage of doing things quickly and efficiently in our world, but without first appreciating and empathizing with the slow way, the old way…without first holding in high regard the craft of creating...we only confuse the role of the people pushing a button with the people who created the button.   

For our children, promoting the use of minimal effort to an end result contributes to a lack of patience, and a lack of patience contributes to a lack of effort to think, follow through, and innovate…which in my mind contributes to a world of drooling, gaping idiots mindlessly staring at a screen, depending heavily on the innovation and thought of others.  …and I can’t help but think that that dependence makes the public very easily controlled, influenced, and insulated from what’s going on around them.

…which is why I’m confused when parents or educators think that introducing technology to young children somehow helps instill independence and intelligence.  I just see a young individual that doesn't know how that device works...but can't live without it, can’t entertain themselves, can’t peel their eyes away from that screen, is insecure about making mistakes, and is unskilled and unwilling to create something with his hands.  What’s so independent about that?  What’s so smart about that?  Look at the kid that’s never held an iphone.  He’s up in a tree reading a book, inside the fort he built himself.    
I’m far more impressed when I see young children building, knitting, sewing, gardening, handwriting, sculpting, inventing and creating with their own hands…especially through methods that are old, dated, and not generally used or appreciated anymore.  Why?  Because those are the people that will grow up understanding the history of why we need technology in the first place…and will have a broader independent point of view…more readily able to go in a new direction, see a need, think, invent, and take a chance on creating things we need that are even better.    

Saturday, January 11, 2014

To Open the Door

I’m a teacher who has a three year old daughter, and I’m very proud to say…right now, I’m not teaching her how to read.  I’m not exposing her to “educational” software, showing her flashcards, or letting her play with “educational” toys, or asking her test type questions about what’s on a menu in a restaurant, or what’s on a sign we see on the street, nor do I drill her on: shapes, colors, numbers or letters.  …and guess what?  She’s learning it all anyway.  She’s learning it because we talk with her, play with her, and go places with her…and because she asks questions.  …but the fact remains, I am not intentionally teaching my daughter academics at this time…nor will I when she turns four, or five…

…and she is going to be just fine.

It’s my fervent belief that childhood shouldn’t be rushed, and that later success in school isn’t determined on whether our children can read at three, or at any time before the age of seven.  Rushing anyone to learn to read before they are developmentally ready is like trying to enter a locked door.  You can enter it…but not without a lot of force and not without inflicting damage as you enter. 

…because when we break down that door with our “interventions”, our well intentioned drills and tutorials, our extra practice sheets, and our segregated ability groups, we are leaving a deep negative mark upon the self esteem of our children…which they carry with them throughout their schooling…and I’m telling you, it’s unnecessary.  

Novels and books of knowledge will eventually be read in childhood…not because we taught reading early, but because we taught it at the right time, and nurtured a child’s interests.  It’s that damage inflicted by breaking down the door, those false expectations from people who aren’t even educators…It’s that which may actually hinder a child’s interests and motivation to learn later in life.  It’s that which may make those novels and books of knowledge less likely to be touched by our children.  It’s that which makes parents cry at conferences, and doubt their own child’s abilities, and make teachers ask, “What’s wrong with this kid?”  

There’s nothing wrong with our children.  It’s our expectations that are wrong.  And I’m so tired of not hearing enough people around me questioning them.