Yesterday I got angry. I got very, very, very angry and because it is rainy and cold outside, and I had my kids, I didn't go for a jog a la Sophie. Instead I joined in that time-honored traditional outlet: venting with my friends, most of whom are also very, very, very angry.
It's about our kids. And school.
It's difficult to talk too much about specifics now because of things that are or may be happening (or not), some things that require investigation and open-minded talking, and a careful think-through of how I should proceed.
And it's frustrating to feel gagged at the moment, when I do so like words to flow with impunity and freedom. ;)
The important thing about the talks I had with my friends yesterday and the other talks over the course of this week is that I have some excellent, constructive ideas and a plan of action.
As more than one friend suggested I do, I'm going to collect the myriad of posts I've written about my school concerns and put them together in a packet of "I'm part of the solution and want to offer constructive suggestions about ways I hope the school can continue to get better and better."
In the meantime, I'd like to talk about a couple of things I can talk about with regard to children and education.
Scenario: Do bright kids get bored? Do gifted and talented kids get bored?
"She comes home every day dispirited and uninterested," I complained to my four mom friends, "She tells me she's bored. I ask her what she does when she gets bored, and she says, 'get in trouble.' She has gotten a few more yellow cautions than ever before, but that hasn't been enough to send up a red flag to me. It's more her demeanor, and what she says."
"You can give her ideas of things she can do to keep herself interested," my smart former teacher friend said, "For example, tell her to draw on the back of her worksheet, or continue the assignment a step further on her own."
"She does that," I said, "Practically every worksheet comes home with something extra on the back. The one that cracks me up the most are the little booklets they do every week. She writes the book frontwards and then backwards, and traces the illustration on the back of the page and colors it twice. And still she says she's bored."
"You know, gifted and talented kids don't get bored; bright kids might, but it's the average and bright kids who are the troublemakers when they get bored," said my super smart Master's in early childhood education friend.
"Well we have no idea if Patience is GT," I said, and got at least one pair of eyes rolled at me, but it's true: we don't know. She might not be, at least not by our district's standards. Because there are a lot of superbright kids, the gifted and talented program has carefully set and narrow parameters.
"It's true," another friend chimed in, "Superbright kids shouldn't be bored."
I've heard this argument before. I think it's oversimplified. I believe every human being, regardless of intelligence level, has the potential to get bored. I think it's what comes next that we need to consider.
How do we each cope with boredom, when it happens to us?
My kids both get bored. That's when they provide great blog fodder, such as jokes and science experiments, Persistence and the Any Substance That Can Be Employed in Multimedia Art messes, cooking, and so forth. In general, Patience is excellent at thinking of imaginative and okay ways to play. Persistence, my little investigative experimenter, is often at the head of a mess. My kids, left to their own devices, are never, by their estimation, bored. However, I can tell when they need a little positive direction.
In the classroom, it's a different thing altogether. In the classroom, Patience is part of a collective, and the collective must work together to achieve some degree of harmony, within which they can learn. When she completes her work, doodles a bit, and then starts thinking while waiting for the preset allotted time for the assignment to conclude, she can forget the rules in the pursuit of additional challenge and stimulation.
I've had parents say to me that I need to teach my kids how to have down time. This annoys me because I know what they mean: teach my kids to be okay with sitting and doing nothing. I'm not okay with that, and I don't think it's a size that fits all, anyway. In fact, I'm not sure who that fits.
I know how my kids' brains work, to some degree. They are similar to me and my husband. Our idea of downtime is still some sort of activity. I consider riding a bike relaxing. I consider reading a book relaxing. It's true I'm still doing something, but the way I work is that I am fairly incapable of doing nothing.
My kids are similar. We have quieter activities. I know exactly how Patience recharges: alone, in her room, quietly playing with a toy or reading. Persistence seems to gather energy by playing with others. I know you hear what I'm hinting at here.
But in my mind, all of this is moot. The kids are in the classroom to learn, not to sit. So I reject the notion that my child ought to be fine with sitting and feeling bored and restless.
(However, I do like the idea of her learning how to accommodate different earning styles and speeds. I think it gives a good lesson not only about respecting others, but about respecting ourselves, too.)
Once she completes the lesson and has finished her drawing, she has finished two necessary stages of learning: accomplished a new task and recharged (in her case, through solo creative work). After finishing the drawing, she is ready for the next challenge.
I don't know if her teacher knows any of this. Patience is the sort of child who can slip under the radar, and who might not necessarily share with her teacher. She'll be especially reticent if she gets any kind of warning that indicates she has displeased her teacher or has done something incorrectly. She's incredibly sensitive about that.
So as I stood talking to my friends, I wondered, five years ago I soundly debated and agreed to disagree with the notion that GT kids don't get bored, but am I being too closed about this?
"I think all sorts of kids get bored," my former teacher friend stated, "And when kids hit this, it's not about the kid anymore, it's about the teacher. She's got to challenge the bored kid, or it always ends up with some kid who will think of ways to challenge herself, which is usually some way that the teacher doesn't prefer!"
"Amen to that," I said, thinking of cleaning up smeared yogurt.
I agree with my former teacher friend. Kindergarten classrooms are stimulating; they are stocked with centers that contain interesting items. But are they challenging enough for the bright kids?
Imagine being surrounded by activities that stimulate your curiosity and desire to explore and investigate, and then imagine you are held back from this open exploration by a structure that only allows a prescribed amount of time to indulge in each area of interest. How does that work for you?
Now imagine that up to this point, you have been allowed fairly free rein to explore, and suddenly, you hit Big School and are told: the freedom is over.
How does that work for you?
My only shock is that Patience hasn't received more cautions. I can only attribute this to her desire to be good...no, it's more a desire to do all things correctly.
My only surprise is that more kids don't struggle with this issue.
Being somewhat outside of the general experience is hard. I don't know if it's me (are my expectations unrealistic? am I not cognizant of the challenges of the classroom? have I developed such a different educational style that it's not reasonable to expect that in the classroom of a public school? are we the square pegs trying to fit in a round hole?) or the school or teacher (should they dedicate more time to individualized and freer teaching? are they providing ample stimulation and challenge?).
What do you think?
Do bright kids, GT kids, any kids get bored?
What do your kids do when they get bored?
What do you think?
Funny aside: Persistence has been having vivid dreams about food. If I wasn't convinced she's about to have a growth spurt already, I would be now. Yesterday we had to search every nook and cranny to convince her there are no donuts in this house. Today? Gummies. Oy.
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.