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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Our Students Are Missing Out On Childhood

Two seemingly unrelated pieces of information have come my way in the past two days.
  1. Michael Jackson's life and death, and speculations
  2. Alfie Kohn's book, The Homework Myth
Kohn's first chapter is "Missing Out on Their Childhood."  I have never been a proponent of homework, even as a kid.  I, like my younger son, could listen to what a teacher had to say, not take notes, and remember nearly everything a teacher/professor said.  I have read much and widely, at one time having a personal library of over 7500 books.  I enjoy philosophy, of the ancient kind, as much as anything.  It is amazing how little things really have changed, no matter what people seem to think of the advancement of technology.  Anyway...

Homework, it seems to me, is invalid for at least two reasons:
  1. If a student is required to sit in school for 7.5 - 8 hours a day, why is it that they haven't learned a day's worth of material in that amount of time?
  2. Homework takes away from allowing the family to have the influence they should have with a child and/or the parents are the ones completing the homework.
How does homework relate to Michael Jackson?  One of the things critics and fans of Jackson have in common is that he missed out on his childhood because of his talent.  Brooke Shields even mentioned during the memorial ceremony that she and Michael connected because they both were "made to be adults at an early age" and when they were together they simply wanted to be kids.

Kids. They can't win. They are either chastised because they are without supervision, or they are so overly supervised by parents that they can't learn from their mistakes (because they aren't allowed to make a mistake).  I work with both kinds.

I have kids whose parents (both of them) are working 2 jobs, 16 hours a day, to make things work out for their family.  Older siblings take care of the younger ones.  These families are criticized because the kids have no supervision.

I have other kids whose parents are able to leave work early during football season to watch practices...everyday.  What kind of job do they have?  They drive $40,000 dollar cars to stand on the sidelines to watch practice.  These kids have too much supervision.

Both kinds of kids are missing out on a childhood.  Some are made to have adult responsibilities before they are capable of handling them.  Others never learn about responsibility, because their parents protect them from having to be responsible or accountable. 

I admire the parents of the first child much more.  They are doing the best they can to make life better for their children.  Teachers should "come along side" of these parents and children to help the child experience childhood (not just schoolhood).

I teach 7th grade.  I had students last year who did not know how to play hide-n-seek, kick the can, or freeze tag.  They had never heard of Scrabble, played a game of Hearts or Spades, or watched the Wizard of Oz.  They had never been on a hike, skipped a rock across a pond, or seen snow (a girl actually teared up when I let her go outside to make a snowball).

It seems to me that we are not working to develop the whole child.  As Ken Robinson humorously states, "Schools are about creating brains, and nothing below the shoulders is addressed."  How do we go about developing the whole child?  That is a question I seek to begin answering this next school year.  I have to build background with my students so they can understand the content.  I am hoping to have movie days and go hiking on nearby trails on weekends throughout the school year. I would like to go to museums and landmarks in our area.  I want parents to come when they can.  I have a couple of other teachers interested too, but we'll see how things go.  I have been working on weekend trip destinations this summer.  I'm nearing a completed schedule.  I really want this to work.

If you have any suggestions, pieces of advice, or ideas please let me know.

Posted via email from rrmurry's posterous


At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Christine said...

As a parent, I really enjoyed this post. Thanks.


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