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Posts Tagged ‘Education’

It’s Not That Easy Being Green

September 25, 2011 16 comments

“It’s not that easy being green …but green’s the color of spring and green can be cool and friendly like and green can be big like an ocean or important like a mountain or tall like a tree.”  ~ Kermit the Frog

So, it’s the first full week back to school and at the end of my work day on Friday, the Director and Fitness teacher ask me to take off my “office” hat so they can speak to me as a “parent”.

You know this can’t be good.

It’s about my 10-year old daughter of course and it seems there was an issue in her fitness class. There are 25 multi-aged children in this class on Mondays and Fridays and my little “lemon drop” happens to be the oldest. Many of the younger kids look up to her, literally. She is also the tallest kid in the school and would perhaps be, by any other standard expected to “set the example” maybe?

“Ahem.”

Okay. So, it seems my little “apple dumpling” is the only one, out of these 25 kids that said “no” and flat out refused to sign a goal oriented agreement that has the following requirements:

  1. Everyone feels safe and no one gets hurt.
  2. Everyone has an equal chance to enjoy each game.
  3. Everyone learns how to be a better team member.
  4. Everyone has fun.

Not unreasonable, in fact when queried, my little “butter-cup” said she had no problem with setting these goals as a group. She just didn’t understand why she had to sign her name to it.

Her argument:

“They know me, Mom.

I just don’t know why my ‘word’ isn’t good enough anymore.

If they don’t trust my word what difference does my signature make?

Either they trust me or they don’t.

Besides, it didn’t  say ‘pacificly’ that it was for fitness only.

I am the biggest kid — in the entire school. What if I hurt another kid by accident?”

They know her, indeed. She was welcomed by this school well before she ever spent her first full day there as a student at the age of three. From the time she was about 9-months old, she would tag along on school trips to the farm, to pick apples, pumpkins and attend theater shows with her older brother’s class. When she finally got there, it was in this fine progressive, hands-on learning environment that she was truly encouraged to be herself, to think, to ask and to imagine. She was the child who wore a communion veil to class every day for the second half of second grade, even though she never made her communion. She’s the kid who never wears matching socks and when I tell her in the morning…

“You either brush your hair or wear a hat to school,”

…nine times out of ten, she chooses the hat.

This school nurtured her, told her in no uncertain terms that she had a voice and helped her to find it, so there was really no disrespect when she said “no.” Her response, in effect was a culmination of seven years of being taught the importance of being your own person.

That day, she was told that if she wasn’t going to sign the paper, she wouldn’t be able to participate in the fitness program. She would have to sit out, and she did. That’s the price isn’t it, of taking a stand or being different, not following the crowd, standing up for something you believe in, even if you’re the only who believes in it? There could be a consequence.

There could also be a compromise, which is why I love this school.

After a few discussions with her fitness teacher (who just happens to be a former student of this fine school) the two exchanged positions and she understood the need for all the kids in the class to know they were all on the same page. She agreed to verbally acknowledge the four points and she did not have to sign her name. A resolution born out of mutual respect.

Many of the younger kids look up to her. Literally. She is after all the tallest kid in the school and the oldest and would perhaps be, by any other standard expected to “set the example”…..

……and maybe, she did just that.

She is her own person and while it may not be that easy being who she is, she’s cool and friendly like, she’s big like an ocean, important like a mountain and tall like a tree.

You can visit her blog at I’m Thinking Happy! if you like.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Photo credit #1: Kermit

Photo credit #2: ©Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Video Credit #1 YouTube

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A Wet Haven

June 5, 2011 4 comments

Think back to when you were a kid in grammar school. What would it have been like for you, if you were able to throw a bucket of water over your “favorite” teacher’s head without fear of retribution? What if, once a year, you were allowed, encouraged even to get the principal or head of school soaken wet?

My girl soaks her math/science/this is how you build a rocket, teacher!

And what if, even after you left that school, you were still allowed to come back at the end of the year and take part in a wild and wet, water-splash-out of students vs. teachers and parents?

My boy gets to come back and relive this thrill even after being gone for two years!

Six years ago, I began working at the small progressive school my kids attended so I could be near them and see firsthand, what it was all about and why my kids barely got any homework. Coming from a catholic grammar school and an all girl catholic high school, I was a little skeptical of the progressive education that I’d signed on to for them. I ended up getting an education for myself, on what it means for a child to be in an environment that nurtures their curiosity and fosters the development of a life-long love of learning. For eight years my son went to the Randolph School. He left after 5th grade. My daughter is finishing up 4th grade. Next year will be her last. I’m already feeling sad.

The curriculum at Randolph School is project based. Several months are devoted to one study at a time, such as birds, Native Americans and human flight. Math, English, Social Studies and Science all get incorporated into the study using a hands on learning approach. These kids are out and about, seeing, doing, building and loving what they’re learning. They’ve done some pretty awesome things too, like making paper and cooking an annual ThanksGiving meal with vegetables they planted and harvested themselves. They’ve tapped maple trees, collected sap and boiled it down to make their own syrup for a pancake lunch. They’ve been schooled on tracking people and animals, building shelters in the wilderness and trebuchets in the back field. They know how to use the resources they have to solve a problem. Each child builds a rocket and launches it every year and each year ends with an adventure day which usually involves a hike along the Hudson river or in this year’s case, a walk across the Hudson River on the newly opened, Walkway Over the Hudson. After the adventure there’s an all-school barbecue. After the barbecue, the older kids, students in kindergarten through 5th grade, get to camp-out behind the school with parents and teachers. Tents are pitched at the bottom of the same hill the kids and teachers, sled down during the winter. A bon fire is made, songs are sung, stories are told, s’mores are eaten.

Somewhere in-between the end of the adventure and the beginning of the barbecue, a twenty-plus-year-old tradition lives on. It began when two teachers who overheard a plot being hatched by two students to bring water guns to the camp-out, staged a surprise counter-attack, fully equipped with their own loaded water-guns and behold, a no holds back, teacher-parent-student water splash-out filled with 100% pure fun was born!

A wet haven for kids of all ages! Splash-Out June 2011

It’s tough being a kid. Society is drenched with all kinds of peer pressures and technological enticements. Finding a place in early childhood where children are free to be themselves, free of some of these stresses just long enough to give them a solid footing is a blessing.

So much of parenting is like playing pin the tail on the donkey. Without foresight, you point yourself in what you hope is the right direction and move forward, praying that you hit the target. Sometimes, you get lucky and hit it dead center.  Other times, you veer way off to the left or the right and have to go back and try again.

Sending my children to a school that encourages kids to be kids was a “hitting the target dead center” move — a blessing.

The result, is that they love to learn, they always will and I am very grateful.

What do you love about your child’s school?

 

Fly on the Wall

January 16, 2011 1 comment

If nothing else, I know with a fair degree of certainty, that three days a week, I am going to smile.  Actually, it’s more likely that I will literally Laugh-Out-Loud, probably several times during each of those three day’s and undoubtedly, I’ll get what I need to tweet something profoundly wise or funny (on another site). Three days a week I am a fly on the wall.

I work in a small, private, progressive school which is in a big, beautiful Victorian house. I am not a teacher. I work in the office, in the “Downstairs” part of the house where the “Downstairs” kids, who roam from room to room, are three and four years of age. Three days a week, I am privileged to be able to peek out and watch the wee ones introduce themselves, to themselves, through the beautifully ornate, floor to ceiling mirror embedded in the wall right outside the office. Even better, I hear things, like their outspoken curiosity, all day long.  I’m the fly on the wall.

A few weeks ago a group of these pre-schoolers crowded around a “mystery” box. They looked at it, touched it, poked it. Finally, a three-year old girl exclaimed:

“Maybe there’s a little serk inside!” When a teacher asked what a serk was, she said, “I don’t know what that is but it’s fun to say!”

Often I overhear them making more sure-footed statements as in this sports commentary between two four-year old boys:

“Sometimes the Jets win and the Redskins tie cause they’re twisted together”, which was countered by, “Well, my favorite sport is …who gets to the finished line first.”

The office is next to a (single) child’s bathroom. No matter who or what gender the occupant is, that door is nearly always open. So when a three-year old girl peered in on a four-year old boy in the midst of peeing, there was this little exchange:

“What’s that?” she asked. “It’s a penis.” he replied matter-of-factly. Then he added just as matter-of-factly, “Only girls have bajamas.”

Priceless!

If it’s not a statement or a query, it’s an apology or an aspiration, like when a four-year old girl saw three older “Upstairs” kids running in the hallway, she remarked:

“Those Upstairs kids are crazy! When I am in the Upstairs here, I’m going to be crazy too!”

Or my new personal favorite, when one four-year old boy looked into the face of another rather astonished four-year old boy and said most sincerely:

“Sorry. I guess I should have asked first if it was okay to lick you.”

The noise level outside the office gets pretty high sometimes but it never bothers me and I never close the door. I love being the “fly on the wall”, listening, laughing and re-tweeting what I hear from the little people. They speak their truth, unabashed and with confidence.

They make me smile which makes it a whole lot easier to take the world on!

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