Posts Tagged Kindergarten

Give Kids a Steel Rake and a Shovel

Introduce a few kids about 5 and 6 of age to actual metal (adult) tools and their whole demeanor changes. Most want to engage with using these tools and are set on using them properly. Even with little prompting or explaining they tend to be focused on the task at hand. Sure you may have to interject here and there saying, “Ok, make sure the shovel stays on the ground. Or be careful with the end of the rake it may hit so and so. Or you can only use that technique when no one around.” And these are general, just heads up comments that naturally be come dialogue when kids are experimenting with new tools that can be almost twice their height, when propped up.

In our schoolyard we have a mound of extra gravel for filling in shallow spots around our track. For the past few weeks we’ve been keeping active loosing up gravel with the steel rake on the mound, scooping up shovel loads, filling up buckets, and spreading the wealth of gravel around the track. I just introduced the idea one afternoon and they’re stoked about working with adult tools. Of course I’m right there beside them participating, but I have found that they are complacently safe, without any lecture on safety, and quite intrigued on the task at hand. While the group plucked away at the heap of gravel in the yard, the topic of “playing,” came up. It was a short lived dialogue, but when I asked the two helping to shovel and rake the gravel, if we were “playing or working?” – one sided with playing and the other with working. In fact the one who said were working, would periodically comment, “we’re working hard and I want to keep working all afternoon and skip open classroom and studio time.” Both seemed thoroughly involved in what they were doing, and seemed to take great joy in it, but is this work or play. Or are there any delineations between the two?

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Kids Can Be Meanny Heads!

Today our classroom was teeming with madness, meanness, and mischief; and no it was not a Monday. The weather between gusts of howling wind, flashes of lightning, an occasion crackle of thunder, and a burst of radiant light – somehow found its way into the classroom. The kid’s behavior seemed to be a direct reflection of the inclement weather. And two teachers were caught in a storm of madness, restlessness, and impulsiveness that sends even radical thinking teachers scratching at the blackboard for calmer seas.

On the brighter side, yes there were merry moments that I gripped like a found jewel, but overall these kiddos were out for blood. Squabbling over who sits where, tangling with twisted arms in the corner over marbles, spitting water in the face of a younger boy in another classroom, screaming at their top of one’s lungs when the point was to sing – and of course a swath of other disturbances that leaves you to begin questioning your own sanity.

Certainly we are two teachers who support anarchistic principles and direct democracy, but today literally wore us out. Our kids don’t know what boredom is because they’re always independent self-directed, and our classroom provides countless opportunities for interacting with a diversity of materials that are thoughtfully presented and mindful of their interests. We also offer weekly fieldtrips, ample time and space for free play, classes in Art, Spanish, dance, music, and cooking. And this is just a small taste of the curriculum. One thing these kids are not is bored.

We don’t supervise over them like prison wardens, we’re constantly conscious of respecting their autonomy, and we bestow a ton of trust in their natural born, indestructible drive to learn. But quite frankly, 19 kids with distinct craves for independence can occasionally bring out a degree of meanness – leaving the teacher to ponder: Are they watching violent movies or too much television on the brain? Did they all eat sugar coated frosted rainbow cereal, along with Pop Tarts for breakfast? Is it the weather or a full moon? Jesus, are they just being punks? Or, what the hell am I doing wrong?

But, in the end a daunting day finds a flicker of light among these darkened clouds. You begin to realize they play hard together four days out of the week, for six straight hours, while they loose their first teeth and learn to tie their shoes. Beneath those nuances and scrapping with each other you notice they all are entitled to poopy days. And you realize between the screams, cries, laughter, hackling, there is the sound of the wind, beckoning for one Ohmmmm… of breath, as they yearn for deeper connection. And you come to find out that meanness is just a distress sign for a need to relate, to find belonging, and to feel deeply loved.

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