Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Scattered Showers

I know! I've been MIA for a month.  You thought I was a goner, huh? Nah- I have been making sock creatures for a charity, and warm fuzzies, and baby shower presents, and a VERY TOP SECRET thing that requires times and sewing.  I'll tell you all about the VERY TOP SECRET thing when it is no longer top secret.

Oh- and I dyed my hair and cut it short short- It's now a blond pixie cut.  I like it.

So, I have been thinking about writing for about two weeks now- but everytime I do, it's a gripe.  Then, today, I thought "who's blog is this?" mine, of course- so If I wanna gripe, then I can.
For the record- my positive thought vow is still in effect- I have had some times where I feel really down , and I have weaned off my depression meds, but I stop, ask myself if the thing is worth whining about, if I can change it, if it's a reality or if my brain is making it up, etc....and then I think a positive thought.

But also for the record- I'm gonna whine about my life later.

So, today, and all last week, I have been in second grade classrooms.  Second graders are still pretty cute, pretty innocent, not yet griping too much about school.  You can talk fairies and leprechauns with them.  As well as tsunamis and religions.  But I didn't get to enjoy these second graders much.

Why?  They can't think for themselves.  They can't take directions.  They truly really stink at both.  Was it my direction giving? no way in hades! Lemme explain:

Here is the what:
I asked for the group to sit and listen to me write a story.  We went over setting, characters, and plot.  I had all the kids give a setting example.  Great. I picked one. Then I gave them the characters- their fuzzies and a friend's fuzzy (or the class fuzzy). (we all sewed a fuzzy prior to this).  Then I gave them a recipe for the plot. I wrote a story of my own under the recipe.  I gave 3 more examples of stories.  I sent them to their desk to walk them through it.
Fold this piece of paper in half so it is long and skinny.  Fold it in half the other way.  Then one more time.
 OK- did you watch me?  you should have 8 rectangles to write in.  One kid just starts making lines without folding- makes ten squares.  wrong.  He didn't listen.  Another one stares blankly at the wall-= what?  you were giving directions?  huh?
In square one- I write on my own paper that has been folded: please write where your story is at, your setting.  write a complete sentence.  This story takes place in_______(a park, a school, a castle).
Can it be at hogwarts?  Sure.  Can it be at a park? sure. can it????No, I am not answering any more can it be-s we need to move on.
In square two write who your characters are.  It should be the name of your fuzzy and the name of a friend's fuzzy.  "I'm gonna write elmo and Justin beiber" are they fuzzies? nooo. Deep breathe- whatever.  (after writing down the characters' names, many kids somehow magically changed them in the middle of the story- so obviously I need to reteach character or something.
In square three, write the problem your fuzzy has.  My fuzzy, Gabby, has a bad hair day.  My fuzzy, Owen, forgot to go potty before class.  My fuzzy, Pancake, forgot it was crazy sock day.  I notice one kid has just written the words "setting, character, and problem" in the 3 boxes.  Sigh.
I could go on for box 4-8.  Feelings, how the problem was solved, etc- but you see.

Here is the why to the what:
We spoonfeed our kids.  We cut their food into tiny bites.  We boss them around.  We tell them what to do.  We tell them how to feel.  We instruct them.  We do not foster thinking for themselves.  We do not foster problem solving. 
Next time your kid comes running up to you "Johnny hit me"- try this- do not tell him "Tell Johnny I said no", instead tell him "what do you think you could do about that?" and here's the killer- wait for him to answer.  Next time he asks "how do you spell frog?" - ask him how he could find out on his own.  Let him look it up, or sound it out.  Let him fail if necessary- not for a lifetime, just for the one moment of word spelling- before just feeding him the answer.
I'm not blaming the parents- not entirely- schools are now being forced to spoonfeed answers to kids as well.  We have to get through so much curriculum prior to testing in May, and the students have to know the answers to these questions or the school gets no money.  We use cloze worksheets (fill in the blank) and multiple choice tests to assess what the kids know.  Reading 35 essays and replying to each of them would be extremely time consuming.  We can't ask a kid to think and give them answer time- the other 34 hyper students have no idea how to sit still and quietly while their friend answers.
Look at video games- kids don't even figure them out themselves- they look for cheat codes or cheat sheets on how to unlock the massive grenade launcher.  They don't test things to see what it does-

Product: good grades, passed test, finish video game, turn in worksheet..   Process, writing, testing, analyzing, changing, taking time and effort.

Our school system, and our rushed lifestyles, are dumbing down kids in the thinking and problem solving department.  If the kids didn't hear me give directions on our writing, or on today's massive failure of a vocabulary sheet, then they should have, gasp*, looked for directions.  But that would have taken reading and comprehension, and thinking, and what they want and expect is to be fed the answers.  because that's what we do a lot of the time in class.  "Turn to page one"  "What is 2 plus 2?"  Johnny, the smart kid who always knows the answer raises his hand.  "Johnny?" he answers 4.  Everyone writes down four.  Did everyone have to think? Nope- teacher and Johnny will tell them the answer.

I'm scared, really.  I hope to the Gods that these kids learn how to think things through, how to problem solve, how to take directions (more than one at a time) before they become leaders of our countries.

My mom didn't necessarily teach me art or crafts.  She (not always happily) supplied me with the stuff like pens and tape (she never had a pen because I am a notorious pen stealer).  She let me cook.  She let me (or was blissfully unaware) and my brother do strange things like throw silly putty against the wall.  She let us test things out- try things we might even fail at.  We had freedom, we were encouraged to think for ourselves.  This might have come partially from her being a single mom and she couldn't be everywhere solving all our problems all the time- but it worked for us.
My toys were barbies and dolls and gooey stuff.  I made creatures out of old bottles and aluminum foil.  We didn't sit in front of the TV or play pong all day.  I rollerskated in my garage sale bought ice skating outfit (that was too big on me and very garish). 
My mom taught me to think.  To problem solve.  To enjoy the process- because the product doesn't always turn out (my friends who tried my eggless cake can attest to that).
we aren't doing this with our kids.

My life gripe- then I am done- I'm 39.  Living in my boyfriend's father's house.  It's his house, but it can also be called my home for 2 years now.  I am reverting back to childhood here- but not my carefree just-try-it childhood.  Someone else's controlled childhood.
*I was trying to fix my mirror- father hopped in to "help" (take over the job and tell me how to do it his way)- I said I was ok trying to figure it out myself, he stomped off.
*I want a furry pet.  The boyfriend and father both are not cat people although I am very much.  I offered a solution, a compromise, with a hamster.  I was told no.  Told no- a 39 yr old woman, told no.  Yeah yeah- it's his house, but ....
* I go to work.  I have to inform father where it is and when I'll be home.  This, I understand is for my safety and in case my scooter acts up.  But it is very constricting, and a little annoying.  Can't it just be that I'll be home by 5 and if I am later, I'll let you know? nope.  I get "where?" when, how ? etc etc.
*I am not allowed to bother father during a show- but heaven forbid I ever try to concentrate on a show or anything in 'my' living room.  he walks in here on his cell phone, he turns on the garbage disposal, he talks about stuff like Kirstie Alley being fat on dancing with the stars.
- Ok- gripe done. It needed to get out.  I'm being suffocated like we suffocate our children.  I'm going to become a mindless robot looking to others for an answer.  can I eat this cookie?  Can I blink my  eyes?

 I don't know about you, but I really don't want that kind of person (the clueless lemming) to be running my country, my grocery store, or anything else for that matter.  We need to really work on allowing ourselves and others to think, test, and perhaps fail once in a while.


Lisa said...

So glad to see your banterings again. I missed you. :-) I agree with your assessment of today's kids. When mine were young, I was a youth leader and took kids ages 5 to 12 camping on a routine basis. It was really fun to watch them figure stuff out without the *conveniences* of home!

Mara said...

hear hear! It all seems to be a quick fix nowadays. And then I see a group of children taking a tree branch to a small ditch and trying to get across this ditch with it (they could have stepped over it, but that wasn't any fun and didn't include water). So they are still learning on their own, but the minute a parent sees this, he will tell them off for a. getting their clothes dirty and b. being dangerous!

The world has gone really weird!

Her Mom said...

Great post! Too much emphasis on test scores, too little on using imagination and brain for other than memorizing. Too much ready entertainment (TV, video games, etc.) too little venturing outside and imagining. I used to be Hopalong Cassidy, with a broom or stick as my horse. Unless I had a cold, then I was the Lone Ranger because I thought I sounded like him. I used to bike on country roads. I used to lay on the ground and make things out of the clouds.

AlphaBetsy said...

I agree completely that children are being turned into thoughtless and imagination-less drones. It's scary and sad.

I'm sorry your home life is a bit stressy. It would definitely drive me insane so you are a stronger woman than me. :)