Saturday, June 7, 2008

Possibilities

“The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences. We must widen the range of topics and goals, the types of situations we offer and their degree of structure, the kinds and combinations of resources and materials, and the possible interactions with things, peers, and adults.” -Loris Malaguzzi


Children start their lives as beings of enormous potential and unlimited possibilities. By the time they begin their formal education, they have already begun to develop many of the skills that will be necessary for their continued success and well-being in life.

Curious and full of wonder, these little ones enter school and encounter...what? Kindergarten was once a time of extended play and guided exploration. Emphasis was placed on socialization, developing fine motor skills, and increasing attention span. A typical full-day program included imaginative play, group interaction, some sort of vigorous exercise, and a nap.

Today's kindergarten student has no time for naps. In New York State, grade-specific Performance Indicators spell out standards and competencies for even the youngest learners. With high stakes testing taking place at every grade level, school districts can't afford to wait until first grade to introduce literacy skills: most students leave Kindergarten with some reading and writing facility. In this highly structured continuum, there is little time for spontaneity or silliness.

Where is the space for exploring ? When is there time for possibilities?






"What this Picture is" by
顔なし

5 comments:

Clay Burell said...

Do you think Bush & Co are trying to disgust us all into quitting public education?

It's bigger than that, though. Even here in Korea, parents send their kids to night and weekend school b/c they don't trust day schools to adequately educate their children.

And I'm beginning to think they're strangely justified. They pay for smaller student-teacher ratios in those extra classes, and for less grade-ism and more instruction.

Weirder still - I'm this close to deciding that the best teaching happens nights and weekends, and that school-teaching is the worst option for a teacher who wants to teach.

But you know I've been suspecting that for a long time now.

diane said...

Clay,

The smallest district in NYS, Newcomb, has 64 students, grades K-12. This year, they have a graduating class of 2.

Their superintendent has been trying innovative ways to keep the school operational:

"His first move was to bring students from around the world to Newcomb — six this year and more next year.

Hults believes parents will want to send their children to Newcomb, where the atmosphere is always calm and class sizes are small enough that teachers can work closely with each student." -The Post-Star, Glens Falls, NY

Some of the larger districts in our area don't like the plan because it might draw students - and tax dollars - out of their schools. If this idea is successful, small rural schools might find a niche market for families who value individualized learning.

Of course, the students would still be subject to NY's standardized testing and Regents' exams. But the proposal shows that some administrators are trying to innovate.

And that's a good sign, don't you think?

Clay Burell said...

It's a good thing, but if small schools are seen as a problem, when large class sizes - and by that I mean over a dozen students per class - mean less learning per student, I'm sad again.

Charlie A. Roy wrote a post with links to the origins of grading, and how it was invented by a lazy teacher to increase class size by substituting letter grades for individual relationships with students. It was an eye-opener. Be sure to check the links.

TJ Shay said...

Interestingly, I just had a similar conversation with the Talented teacher at my school who is trying to get kids into college classes while they are in high school. Although I will be teaching a dual enrollment class next year (high school and college credit- taught at the high school) I am against sending kids off campus half time to take college classes.

All things in their time. High school should be all about the learning.... and the pizza parties, bonfires, pep rallies, proms and all the stupid things you look back on later in life and relish. Kids will be in the 'real world' soon enough.

If our high school kids have to be college students, they will never fit into either world. They can't exactly have the same relationships they would build being full-time students in either environment. I think back fondly of the crazy times in both high school and college. Sometimes they get me through the working 70 or 80 hour weeks!

I am all for progressive experiences for kids. I want them to brave unchartered waters and learn things in new in different ways. But, I want them to have age appropriate experiences and build deep and lasting relationships.

diane said...

Terry,

When I was in high school, no one had jobs during the school year. We did homework, went to dances & sporting events, took part in extra-curricular activities, and hung out with our friends. No one had a car either: we got a ride from a parent or took the bus.

Our job was to get an education and begin to mature from teens into adults. We dealt with college when we enrolled there, not when we were still wresting with adolescence.

diane