Dear Mrs R,
It was a bit of a blur last year at school, hard to keep thoughts straight at times. Between the prep, testing, 4 page reports, prepared speeches, detentions, meetings to discuss behaviour, homework, concerts, reading logs .. I could go on and on. I find myself with the head space to finally put this all in some sort of perspective. For a 5 year old boy, all of this might seem a little over the top, it certainly does to his Mother now that I can reflect properly.
It is not my intention to question your commitment, ability or the role that you play in the school community and system, let me be clear about that. I do hope that I may shine some light on a little boy, and all of the little boys and girls, who to you may have been a distraction, a nuisance at times.
The thought that we put 5 year olds into a small square room for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for a whole year and expect them to sit still and listen, and be punished for doing the things that come naturally to them, this continues to baffle me. It also worries me greatly the impression this has given them during such a delicate stage of their development. I worry about how this all impacts on their love of learning, their self esteem and their view of the world.
My little 5 year old boy was beyond excited to start school. He practiced wearing his uniform, carrying his back pack and he practiced opening his lunchbox over and over. He was filled with natural childhood wonder at what was going to happen behind the school gates. He had hopes for exploring a new world, chatting to new friends and learning all about the types of things they liked to play with. He dreamt about climbing, running, throwing balls and endless creativity.
Pretty much all of these hopes and dreams were shattered for him last year, the year that we forced him to sit in a small room with 20+ new friends and told him to be quiet or he would be sent to the Principal’s office.
I am not against the concept of learning or education, I have serious concerns about the way that we are providing this to our children. Play based learning for young children makes a lot more sense to me than the alternatives.
“Education is essential, but there is a huge difference between memorising information that you will never use and being able to learn something because it will positively impact your life, or open your mind in some expansive manner, allowing you to create and contribute to humanity.” (Source: Wake Up World)
Our year of kindergarten was a constant disappointment to me as a parent, and not for the reasons some parents might be disappointed. I watched as the tiny little 5 year olds lined up as they were told every morning. I watched as most days they were publicly and loudly judged for running, playing with balls or for not sitting quietly, all of this before 9am! What a terribly sad way to start your day! I worked hard to distract my wide eyed little wonder from the ‘institutional’ aspects of school he was bombarded with. My heart hurts, and my blood boils every morning we are subjected to this.
Am I being dramatic? I don’t think so.
“Schools are structured, in such a way, that rewards are given for following along, being good, doing as you are told, memorisation and repetition. Punishment is given for speaking out, thinking for yourself and not following along. Schools effectively teach students to feel powerless and to question their worth at every turn – breaking the precious spirits of our impressionable children.” (Source: Wake Up World)
I honestly believe that our system is broken. Something is not working, somewhere along the way something has gone wrong. The rates of anxiety and depression in school aged children have never been higher. Their natural sense of wonder and desire to learn is being shattered by the pressures to perform and conform.
I wonder why you and so many other teachers do not see this? Am I missing something?
If any of this sounds familiar, if you too are concerned about the way the ‘system’ is affecting our precious next generation, please speak up. It is our place, our responsibility and our right to speak up. I found the wonderful Protecting Childhood movement recently, and people are speaking up louder than ever! Hopefully our voices are heard.