Today I took my daughter to The McWane Science Center for a birthday party. It is one of those hands-on science museum. It was fun watching the kids play on the different exhibits. Its cool to see them do things that use questioning skills even if they did not know they were. I would get frustrated with my daughter when I was trying to explain why something happened and she would not listen. But it was not until later I realized she was building knowledge she will one day recall or it will help her understand something later.
School started back this week and this is the 1st year I am just teaching science. My first day with my new classes we discussed why we have science class. I told them two reasons.
The first was to learn how to question. Just imagine if BP and their execs and engineers asked all the questions they needed to ask before drilling in the Gulf. Questioning was something my daughter was doing as she played with the silly exhibits at the museum. It was natural to her. Some how as we grow old that natural skill disappears. Science teaches us to nourish that skill. To help it grow.
The second reason, to learn about our impact on this planet. I teach Earth science. I do not see how you can just teach facts about the Earth and not teach about the impact each of us has on it. I have always done this but this year when I explained this goal, all of my classes brought up the Deep Horizon oil leak/spill. This was something that has happened close to their home, most had seen tar balls over the summer. They were angry, which I think is a good thing. This one terrible event has caused my students to relate to what I am teaching.
That brings us back to my daughter at the science museum. Going to places like that and experiencing science hands on causes children to relate. I know that is a over-used term in education, having the subject matter relate to them, but it can. It goes back to the post I wrote about story telling. Teachers are experts, they need to share their knowledge with students, but make sure they know why they are learning it. Have them question why they should learn it. Let them question you even! Yeah I know that one is tough, no one likes that one kid who obsesses over proving you wrong, but let them know that its ok to question anything , everyone, and everything! Be an example and question things yourself! Science is not something that can be found in a text book somewhere. It is not a bunch of facts. It is the world around us and how and why it works the way it does. Once kids understand that is the basics of science they will start notice it around them.
So today was the first day of school. Not off to the greatest start as I had hoped. But once to school in my element (even though its a new school building, its still my element) I was better. I expected the first day to be chaos so no lesson plans, etc. I had things I wanted to do with my classes, but knew there was no way of knowing how long we would be in each class. So today I decided will be a day for me to watch the natural interaction of these kids.
Kids are kids. There personality is engraved into their little brains. As I watched today I saw kids almost crawl into shells because they are shy, I saw 2 boys in one class sit on their feet – like a frog, one twist parts of his afro into perfect little twist all over his head. I had 5 push past me to get into my classroom. One to move 4 times at lunch to sit by different people. It was so interesting watching these kids’ small idiosyncrasies.
How many times do we tell students, “speak up,” “get your feet out of desks,” “leave your hair alone,” “stay in one seat,” etc, etc? By doing that we are taking what is comfortable and trying to change it. Why on Earth are we trying to change kids?! Now making them be polite and courteous is understandable, you notice I did not say pushing past me was OK. I have been guilty of this so many times as well. Why?
Nothing makes me more upset that another adult telling me they do not like the way I do things and I should change them. Especially if it is there opinion. I am a weird person, I do like to joke around, giggle, and say off the wall things. That is me. I work with some pretty strange people, one is making animal noises down the hall right now, (yeah I know some of you read this haha Tink costume) really if you sit back and look at the other 6th grade teachers I work with, we are a very odd group. No way you would not like us! OK maybe and we annoy the mess out of each other in a brother/sister way. We are all different and have never told any one to be this way or that way. So it shocks me when someone points out something about me they don’t like. I am sure you would feel the same way.
So lets not do that to our kids. Your classroom (my classroom) needs to be the safe environment where they can be themselves and as long as that does not hurt anyone’s learning, it is OK. Kids need to be themselves to be comfortable enough to learn. Do not try to change them! Teach them!
So this morning I heard a man speak from Uganda, Africa. My first thought was, “Great a guy asking for money.” Wow I was so wrong. The guy started telling what he does and how it all began. He runs an orphanage and he was telling how it all started with him buying lunch for four children and eventually buying chicken houses for them and 50 of their friends to live in. He went on to say that his first goal was to find teachers for the children. Then he said something that I absolutely loved. He summed up the reason why education is so important in one statement:
“If we do not educate children, we are just warehousing them. We are setting them up to be the prostitutes and pimps of the future.”
WOW isn’t that an incredible statement? Now I know for him in Uganda he is not speaking metaphorically, children in that country will really become prostitutes or pimps if not educated. But think about our children/students who “slip through the cracks” or drop out or how ever remain uneducated. Those students become adults who just do things for money. Hold “jobs” so they can have money to survive. No careers, no dreams come true, no more goals. They become “prostitiutes and pimps” of society, the ones doing the bare minimum for their “checks” or even doing nothing at all and collecting from the government.
How as educators could you not want to stop this pattern?! No we cannot change everyone, but we can try to help more than one. We cannot take them out of the environment they live in or the past they have lived, but we can show them they can be successful in something. We share with them our knowledge and our love for learning. We teach them how in this new technological age how to “find the answers,” be in control of their learning, and to always want to know more. We teach them to question, not just answer. We need to teach them never to be satisfied with the answer. There is more to educating students than making sure they can pass a stupid test. Learning needs to be lifelong, education is THAT important. If you don’t they just become protitutes and pimps of society. NO CHILD DESERVES THAT FATE.