I have been working on a training workshop for my new baby, Project: Preschool. While it is definitely still a work in progress, I have been able to work toward applying my knowledge in a concrete and productive way, which has been an amazing experience, so far.
So I’ve been working on this workshop, entitled “Learning Through Play”, and I happened to think on my own classroom this morning, in an attempt to find concrete examples of learning through play happening. I had been looking at pictures of another class in another school, smiling at the children doing constructive and meaningful tasks with water bottles full of water.
And then it hit me: The children in my class do not know how to play.
So let me give you some background here, because children in my class always know how to play. I mean, I live to play with those kids and experiment and explore with them. The knowledge that they don’t know how to play is quite a shock. But I switched classrooms a few months ago, moving up with some of the children who had aged out of my old class. It has been a decent fit so far, but some of the present routines that exist in the class have rubbed me the wrong way. The children seem most obviously bored, a fact that I brought up at one time but was instantly rejected by the co-teacher.
Did I say it was a decent fit? I have been at my wits-end.
There is one thing that I have found about being not only knowledgeable, but effective as well: people want you for your knowledge and they want you for your effectiveness, but they don’t want to hear about how you got that way. They don’t want to hear that you did it differently than they did. They don’t want to hear that maybe they were wrong. They don’t want to let go of the knowledge that they have been working off of for years and that may be outdated now. They don’t want to know what makes you effective; they just want you to go in and work your magic, even if your magic doesn’t jive with their current practices.
Because that is what it is to them: magic.
This post started out as a way for me to remark upon and think about what is going on in my classroom, but I am sorry to say that it has become a rant. Which is probably what I need right now. All of the posts that you have seen lately dealing with integrity, appreciation, and dedication – all written with a slight undercurrent of despair – they have all been leading up to this post. I have been convinced for a while that I am not an effective teacher unless I am working alone. And I knew that the main reason for that was because my classroom practices are so much different than most other teachers that I know. Unfortunately, that has led me to question my own integrity recently, as well as my own sanity. But over the holiday I pulled myself together and remembered that I have spent years studying to gain the knowledge that I have, and in that same time have applied that knowledge to test it in a classroom setting. The results have been phenomenal, and have proven to me that constructivist methods really are more engaging and effective than traditional methods. Over the holiday I had to remind myself that I am right, and to remind myself that I need to have the courage of my convictions – which is what I tell all of the participants of my workshops to have. I need to stand up for what I know to be true, and to be the most critical judge of what is not. I can’t let what I love go to waste because of this issue.
It really is a huge issue. I also realized that over the holiday. It comes down to a basic core philosophical issue: the nature of man. This issue has been struggled with and dealt with time and again, and I realized that the theories and educational philosophies that are waging war against each other in my classroom have their root in this issue. One philosophy states that children are born bad and sinful; this view is what prompts teachers to use punishment to deal with behavior and to tell me that misbehavior is probably not caused by the children being bored in the classroom. The other view states that children are good by nature, which is what prompts teachers to teach discipline and social skills instead of resorting to punishment or bribes, and to recognize that there are many different things that could be causing misbehavior in children – our task is to figure out what makes each child tick so that we can make the classroom the most effective for everyone.
Can I make a difference in a classroom that has this silent war brewing? The answer is yes, but not in the way that I would like. It is hard to influence a person’s deep philosophical beliefs, and this belief is core to a system that I believe it is not my job to target. However, I can come up with a plan to be the best teacher that I can be within the time that I am given to do it. And that is what I am looking at now. With the courage of my convictions, I can impact the children in my class and make their time a little more fulfilling. It may not be in the way that I had envisioned it when I first stepped foot in the new classroom, but it is the only way that I will be able to, knowing the nature of what I am up against as I do now.