In the eighteen years that I have spent in public schools, the word “playful” so often is an absent commodity. More absent every year. Playful? No time for such folly in 2016. Not in some schools.
Preparation and practice for the state test takes precedence over most everything. That is how it appears to me. I have not been teaching in a testing grade level for several years. Thank goodness. However, I do feel pressure to prepare the children for what lies ahead. The pressure felt by teachers and children in grades three, four, and five (and beyond) must be intense. I see it in their eyes. Or is this my imagination? I doubt it.
Or is it in my imagination that I don’t hear as much laughter? I doubt it. I wonder what happened to fun assemblies? When I taught in another large city district, we regularly had a fascinating magician, Folklorico dancers, musicians, positive thinking speakers. And so on. The outside world was brought to the school on a regular basis. It not only gave us a break in the regular daily schedule; but it gave us something else to think about, to talk about, to draw about, to write about, to research, to share. Isn’t that what education is really all about?
We have had some moments of interaction with the outside world in my current district. A few little moments…quick moments…hurry here, hurry there moments. There was the portion of the orchestra that played in the gym. I loved it. Prior to their arrival, my class talked about each instrument that we might hear. We saw pictures of the instruments. We listened to the sounds. We took time away from literacy. Right or wrong decision? Right, I think.
As we were walking down the hall to the gym, one of the orchestra members passed by us as he quickly walked to the gym. One of my boys called out (a little too loudly!)…”I bet that he has a trumpet in that case!”. The musician turned around with a huge smile and said…”Thank you for learning something important today!”…my entire class clapped for the trumpet player as he kept walking down the hall. Unreal moment. What made them clap? Spontaneous. A reaction to something concrete…a person who was going to play real music for us. Maybe it was ok that we skipped most of literacy that day. It just seems that sometimes five year olds know what is best.
These children are too young to know very much about the state tests that are waiting for them in a few short years. Will those test reflect what they really know? Will those tests reflect joy in learning? Will they reflect independent learning? Or maybe the test will reflect that they skipped playful and teachable moments…so that they could learn how to take a state test. It just seems wrong to me.