Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Great Ideas

This morning started with my students lined up on the yard, tattling on each other for saying a made-up phrase that was code for "something nasty" reported two girls.  I brought them inside and - after taking a few deep breaths - wrote the word "base" on the whiteboard.  I explained to them what "base" means; I likened it to junk food for the brain.  I said that I've tried all year to feed them great ideas: Shakespeare's The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe, Bullfinch's Mythology, poems by William Blake and Emily Dickinson, Mozart and Beethoven, Leonardo and Monet, the biographies of people like Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson, Ralph Bunche, Alexander Graham Bell, and Harriet Tubman. I told them that it makes me sad to be greeted first thing in the morning by students exchanging base ideas.

To say these things make me sad is putting it lightly. I question daily why I entered this profession.

Another example of this base vs. great ideas conflict: Two weeks ago, some of my nine-year-old boys were discussing the video game Grand Theft Auto, specifically the game's strippers, while walking in line.

There are lots of reasons we want to homeschool.  This is one of the reasons.  It's not that I don't think lots of children do just fine. But why settle for fine? Why settle for common? I went to public school, and I went on to college and am now a "productive member of society."  Lots of children do just fine.

As a classroom teacher, I spend a lot of time not teaching, a lot of time talking about what is appropriate for fourth graders to talk about and what is not, a lot of time that children could be learning independently, but have not been trained in this habit. Children who could be working on their own are either forced to be on the class' schedule, or I am busy with "management" and unable to create challenging individual programs. I spend an inordinate amount of time in conflict resolution, the result of "socializing" children.

I do spend a lot of time teaching, too. Today, after lunch, I read my students the myth of Minerva and Arachne (from Bullfinch's Mythology), which they loved.  What nine-year-old doesn't love a story in which someone's fingers fuse to their body to become spider legs?

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