If you are old enough to remember the old Johnny Carson show you will remember the bit when Carson would come out as the fortune teller Carnac.
Carson as Carnac would be handed an envelope by his side kick Ed McMahon and he would predict the answer to a question that was sealed the envelope.
“Peter Pan,” Carnac would say.
“What do you use to fry a Peter.”
I still laugh at this joke, evidence that I have a still have little boy’s sense of humor.
I posted a terrific article on Facebook this morning from Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post column by Nancy Carlsson-Paige. Carlsson-Paige is an authority on early childhood development, professor emerita of education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Ma., where she taught teachers for more than 30 years and was a founder of the university’s Center for Peaceable Schools.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we would have to defend children’s right to play.
Play is the primary engine of human growth; it’s universal – as much as walking and talking. Play is the way children build ideas and how they make sense of their experience and feel safe. Just look at all the math concepts at work in the intricate buildings of kindergartners. Or watch a 4-year-old put on a cape and pretend to be a superhero after witnessing some scary event.
A Facebook friend responded.
I’ve been teaching Kindergarten for 18 years and have been fighting to keep play in my classroom the whole time. It’s maddening to have to defend children’s true work. I continuously have to justify having a water table, costumes, or Lego. At one point a few years ago I hung signs around my classroom at each center titled ‘What Children Learn From Dramatic Play’ and ‘What Children Learn From Puppets’ listing five or six things kids are learning through that particular type of play. Still, I am subjected to sweeping walkthroughs where admins offhandedly glance at the water table and wave it away saying “Oh no, get rid of that. Less social, more academic.”
Predicting what our students learn is teaching as Carnac.
As an Art teacher I never invited students into my room without a sense of where I would like us to go, what was worth knowing and experiencing, what activities would take us there, how I should organize those activities and how I would know if it all worked.
Yet, students learn all the time. They learn in ways that are unexpected and unplanned. They might take a path of their own. Sometimes to a place I wasn’t aware of ahead of time.
The third grade teacher walked into my room and looked down at my planning book that the district had provided. It was open to all the little one inch squares that represented each class. In each square I had written a word: Mask, self-portrait, landscape and so on.
“What the hell is that?” she asked.
“My plans,” I said. “Five classes a day. This reminds me of what is next.”
“But where are your lesson plans?”
“If someone needs to see one, I will write it later,” I said.
In our district we were on evaluation every other year after we received tenure. It just so happened that I was to be evaluated my final year of teaching. The irony of that did not escape me. Irony nearly always totally escaped my principal and this situation was no exception.
Prior to her coming into my room to observe my teaching for the 45 minutes that were required she asked me to fill out a form which included a space to explain what the students would learn.
“Why don’t you just come and watch and then tell me,” I said.