Have you ever wondered why most babies seem to learn how to walk, yet many children do not learn the most elemental school skills? In my moments of struggle and bliss felt in my life as an educational consultant and director of a private school I believe I have found the shocking secret.
When children learn to walk we offer them hugs and encouragement galore when they stumble. Yet as students go to the ivy halls of kindergarten they suddenly discover red ink, x-marks, and somber looks when errors are made.
Take a jaunt with me into the exotic and wonderful mind of childhood and maybe you’ll react less negatively the next time you see a child err. Maybe you’ll even enjoy the mistake, marvel at the moment, and use it as a stepping stone to learning instead of a stumbling block.
Math is our first subject. One day we were doing subtraction. I said the story problem would require either plus or minus. One boy started singing, “I got the Minus Touch.” He’s heard on TV about the Midas Touch so we had a language lesson that day on Kind Midas and the spelling emphasis was on the middle of the word. Another day while doing story problems a child was reading aloud with his buddy. He read, “there were six acrodyles. . .” (I noticed pictures of alligators and crocodiles on his page.)
Reading is no easier. A fourth grader read out clearly “the old door Roosevelt” and ask me why they would call him an old door. He had trouble understanding that Theodore doesn’t read the way it spells. And of course there’s ‘nowhere’ which a more discerning reader would pronounce “now here” and “a not her” for another, and lots of others where improper reading is really much more logical than the right way. I’ve had kids try valiantly to prove their pronunciations by sounding out these types of words. It’s hard being a kid and being taught to go by the rules–then being forced to break the rules of phonics to go by the rules of pronunciation!
Lunch is the best time of day. We have the luxury in this small school of eating at picnic tables outside. The relaxed atmosphere brings out the most interesting stories the children have to offer. One young scholar told us that his family had to go to the “Mercy Room” last night. A younger child said he’d been to the hospital, and they have a “louse phone” there.
Upon being reminded of sickness, another said she went there once and there was a girl who had been hurt and was being carried. She added, “I bet she could’ve walked if they had given her crunches. My grandad had crunches.” So did Captain Crunch.
Some students still talk of Star Wars movies at times. A boy said that one of the characters had quit. Another replied, “Yeah, I know, he retarded.” I knew retirement was difficult, but I didn’t know it went to your head and affected your intellectual abilities.
Social Studies brings many lively discussions of our world, past and present. A history lesson made one child interested in the “rareroad” and the golden spike. Then when we studied flags a lad was fascinated with the Russian sickle. “Does it mean they’re sick a lot over there in Russia? I know you’ve taught us it’s hard when people don’t have freedom.” When reading of soldiers one child chanted his favorite army line, “The malicious is coming, the malicious is coming!” (I guess if you were on the other side the militia would seem malicious.)
Games always make learning fun. One afternoon we threw dice to see who would go first on a game for English class. A young man had a good idea, “Let’s do it by the one who has the lowest, not the mo’est.” Who says there shouldn’t be a contraction for more-est rhyming with lowest? Maybe that where most actually came from.
Then while working on visual perception matching skills a student was asked what card suite he had. He replied innocently, “Aids.” Did he mean spades, or does he know more than he should?
That awful day in Science was burned in my memory when I had to explain what that green stuff called bile was: the liquid produced in the liver. A gal was utterly shocked and shrieked, “But people don’t have one of those, do they?!?” (holding her throat fearfully). She then added, “Ya know, like birds, with junk in it!” After some discussion I realized she meant a gizzard.
Whew, the students left just in time before my energy ran out. I need a change of scenery so I think I’ll go outside and water the sycamore and dogwood trees in the play yard. I do hope the “Sick ‘em” and “dog” trees don’t bark too loudly because I’m just about ready for some peace and quiet.
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use in print or on line.