Thoughts, links & ideas from the 2008 National Teacher of the Year

Each time I've taken off in a plane since May (which is a lot), I've been writing in my journal, then adding these journal entries on this blog.

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(Note: the blue posted dates are actually the dates I wrote the journal entries, not when I posted them online.)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Kindergarten has the Answers

Redmond, OR

(continued from previous post) 

I think the answer to our 21st century woes lies waiting for us in kindergarten classrooms.  My son, Aspen, just graduated from kindergarten last month, and when I went to visit him in Mrs. Lay’s classroom, I experienced education as it should be at all levels: interactive, integrated, arts-infused, engaging, filled with choice and creativity!  And musical, too!  Kids just spontaneously bust into song all the time in the early grades.  It’s like living with the Von Trapp family!  This is a good thing, especially for Aspen.  He’s a musical little dude.


It’s interesting, though, that as students move into the higher grades, we tend to focus less and less on their bodies and start to concentrate more and more on their heads, and mostly on the left side!  I think this is a tragedy, not only for the child who is being devalued as a complete human being, but also for our country as a whole, which is not preparing a workforce to enter the creative complexities of the 21st century economy.


The situation is somewhat analogous to the practice in some cultures of forced right-handedness.  Wouldn’t it be convenient if everyone was right-handed?  No more bumping elbows at the dinner table, no more smeared ink while handwriting, no need for left-handed golf clubs.  Gee, that’d be pretty handy!  (Sorry about that.)  But what is the cost to individuals who are born left-handed?  Is it okay to tie an arm behind their backs and force them to be someone they’re not?  (And what would baseball coaches do?!)  Not a good idea, in my opinion.


We’ve been living in a right-handed dominated world now for a long time, but our international competitors on the baseball diamond are generally not in as good a position to develop good left-handers.  We have an opportunity in the U.S. to hang on to our high division standing despite the fact that more and more international teams are moving into our division and competing directly with us.  Perhaps we ought to value these elbow-bumping, ink-smearing lefties for who they are and what they are worth, not force them to throw with their off arm!


We’re wasting a tremendous amount of creative talent in our schools.  This creativity would serve our economic livelihood in a world market because the U.S. culture values creative thought and expression.  Why do we squander it in our schools?  Shouldn’t we be developing it to a higher and more rigorous level?  Shouldn’t we value the intelligence of our most creative thinkers and promote the innovation that will keep us alive in a changing global economy, instead of forcing these young innovators to try to succeed in spite of it?


This is really an issue of national economic security (to use the current government vernacular.)  But more importantly, it’s an issue of humanity.  When we begin to truly value both sides of the brain, we remind children that they are wonderfully human!


 If you haven't seen this 20min video of Sir Ken Robinson on TEDTalks, you really ought to check it out.  It has greatly shaped my thinking, and made me laugh rather hard at the same time.  A remarkable talk!

1 comment:

  1. ...and so do kindergartners!

    (see my post today titled "Lessons from the vent" for what I learned from my kindergartner today.

    I passed this post on to the kindergarten teacher of my little gal and her principal. I loved it.


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