In May and June last spring, I worked as an EA at St Agnes school in Moose Jaw. I was in a pre-k room, which was an adjustment for me, but I grew to really love it. Today, I got called to sub in the kindergarten class – so all my kids from last year were there, only bigger! But still just as funny.
Here are some quotes, (some of which I’ve already tweeted) which I can’t help but share with you:
“Like my haircut? It’s new. I got it from the mall. Know what else I saw there? SANTA!!!!!”
Teacher: “What do shepherds do?”
Kid: “Eat grass!”
“Miss Brennan, I actually can’t go out for recess because I have a cavity.”
Or, my personal favorite: Little girl flops down on an armchair, “I need to relax!”
Really? What happened to you? Swallowed play dough? Got sand in your hair?
In all seriousness, these kids are great. They are hilarious and creative and amazing. But my time in kindergarten really made me think about the idea that school kills creativity. I haven’t watched that Ken Robinson video yet, but I plan to. You’d think in kindergarten, kids would have the freedom to be creative. And they do, more so than the grades following. But, even in kindergarten children are being taught what is acceptable and what it not. Kids that don’t follow the norm are “just not listening to directions.”
For example, the kids had an activity sheet to do today, in which they were to colour a cup red, two cars blue, and three cakes yellow. They also had to trace some Cs and count all the Cs on the page. One little girl coloured her cakes purple. And when I pointed out that the cakes were supposed to be yellow, she said, “I don’t like yellow cake, purple would taste better.” Which, I thought was pretty funny and probably true. The teacher took away her paper and made her do a new one while the other kids played, this time “listening to the directions.”
Later, when it was story time, the teacher repeated several times: “What do I want to hear?” and the children responded: “nothing!” Then, as we read, kids interrupted a few times, “My mom made coconut cake before” … “I can do cartwheels too!” … “My brother always leaves his cars on the floor too.” All of these comments about the story were shushed, and the children were reminded that during story time, the teacher wanted to hear “nothing.” Do we learn in silence? Were those children not making valuable, personal connections to the story? I’m not saying they should be allowed to interrupt all of the time, but don’t you think that sometimes meaningful learning happens when kids talk? Even kids at five years old?
How can we create learning spaces were creativity is fostered? Where needs are met? Where children are encouraged in their own personal learning and interpretations? Where they can colour their cake purple if they want to?