Where Should Your Child Be?

Some thoughts for Parents and Teachers.

At the beginning of the school year when I was teaching first grade, I always asked the children to draw a picture of themselves for me. These pictures were to decorate our classroom, which was “everyone’s room”. This was a fun event, with no time limit or specific instructions, just a picture of “you”. These are samples of the type of images that were produced, from one extreme to the other.

The artist on the left, is a little girl. She is seven months older than the artist on the right. I would ask you to look at the detail in her picture. She has herself, with a full body, legs with feet, arms with hands and most fingers, a head with hair and facial expression, but no nose. It is a fairly complete picture, which probably took her a while as she included flowers, pets, stars, and a swimming pool.

The other artist is a little boy, seven months younger. He has simply focused on his face, almost as if that is all there is of him.

Fortunately for me as the teacher, both children see them-selves as happy. Also, I should tell you, I taught in a school that had a teacher’s aide, allowed parents to help out in class, and children in grade six and seven thought it was a treat to spend time in the grade one’s room and help the little ones. All of these assistants helped the children develop at their own rate and encouraged self confidence. I never worried that younger students would not catch up, and always had assistance for children with true learning problems. A good tutoring system was always within reach.

My reason for showing you these pictures is to ask you to think about the differences in these two children both put in grade one in September. The little girl appears to be familiar with drawing, using crayons, paper, and has quite appropriate colours for the items she included. The little boy seems to have completed a boring task in a hurry, and one might guess he did not understand the assignment, was not very aware of himself, or thought the whole idea was silly!

Neither drawing is good or bad. They are simply different and can reflect a stage in a child’s development and readiness to focus on learning.

From what I have read, a child’s memory until age four to five is triggered by the senses: sight, smell, touch, and repetitive verses or beats. By six or seven years the memory does not need to be “jolted”. These physical experiences are the first steps in learning. Once through this stage, they then can understand the concepts that things can be represented by names and symbols.

About this same time in the developmental path, children begin to use their imagination. They can see things in their minds. The little girl’s drawing reflects that she can see an almost complete image in her mind of a child and adds parts that are personal to her such as hair colouring. You can not make imagination happen, but you can certainly stimulate it by encouraging play with items that awaken the senses. Quick ideas: playing ball, helping bake cookies, clapping to the music, singing simple songs, counting cars on the road as you drive; routine things I’m sure you all do. These activities help create images in the mind especially if they are talked about sometime later. Easy questions like ”remember when we played ball, or baked cookies,what did you like about that?”

I seriously question whether a computer or television fit the criteria to stimulate the senses and encourage memory and imagination.

There is a primary school in England that was so concerned about children’s developmental patterns and the influence of the electronic age, that they removed these items from the classroom. Subsequently, they took a step further and removed many of the constructed play items from the outside play area. These were replaced with costumes, pieces of cloth, balls, toys, and cardboard boxes. They were stunned to see the difference in the abilities of children to learn independently with a creative flair. They were using their imagination.

Quickly, I will tell you two stories that were given to me recently. A female friend recalls how when she entered grade one, she was the youngest in her family, thoroughly spoiled by her five siblings, and did very little for herself rarely even sitting quietly drawing or playing alone. Going to school was a horrible experience. No one was by her side to do everything for her, she had no basic skills that would help, and she constantly acted out because she felt she couldn’t do what many others were doing. She was soon labelled as disruptive, and unable to focus enough to learn. You may guess the rest; yes, she was taken off to a doctor and medicated to calm her down. Fortunately, her homelife changed as did her schooling, and she escaped the labels. Another friend was telling me the experience of her son in June of his kinder-garten year. My friend was called in to meet the teacher and discuss his future. The teacher felt he should be promoted as a social event so he could remain with his friends, but he had not learned much during the year. He could go into a class for slower grade ones and he would probably catch up. Luckily, his Mom assured the teacher he was able to make friends easily, and she would rather he have one more year of kindergarten. When he eventually made grade one, he aced it; he was ready, and enjoyed school so much thereafter, he finished his doctorate degree this year at university. I have great admiration for the courage of this Mom. She stepped in and advocated for her child.

I would encourage and ask you, to take school seriously for your child. School days can be a wonderful experience balancing work, play, and love for children, or it can be horrible with a child’s inner creativity and feeling of self worth being crushed.

Let’s all try to make learning, creativity, self-expression, and time in school worthwhile and enjoyable. It takes a combined effort of both parents and teachers. Advocate for your child. Pay attention to his/her development. Ask yourself, is my child ready for the new experience?  You just never know what your child can achieve or become if the journey of education begins with a strong foundation.

   “Your child is a precious treasure. Let’s all aim for the
very best outcomes for all children.”

Gail Brighton  May, 2015.  Nanoose Bay, B.C. Canada.

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