[Homestead] Education, a blue frog and lollipop tree

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Sep 28 20:43:33 EDT 2004


My oldest daughter is a very talented mathematician. Her first female 
math teacher did her damndest to discourage my daughter from taking 
mathematics---said it was not a proper vocation for women. My daughter 
was stubborn, went to the Principal to get the teacher off her 
back---and went on to study mathematics and statistics under a different 
teacher, the underpinning of her Project Manager, Systems Analyst and 
Compliance Manager work for the past five years or so---doing some 
things I cannot comprehend at all.

If I had known about this dum-dum teacher I would have blown my 
stack---I suppose I would have learned about if my daughter had been 
unable to solve the teacher problem on her own---maybe preventing a 
homicide. I've always been pretty serious about my kids learning 
anything and everything in which they were interested. .
		
	The Christian Science Monitor - csmonitor.com 
<http://www.csmonitor.com/index.html> 	

from the September 28, 2004 edition - 
http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0928/p14s01-legn.html


    Too often, teachers extinguish a student's spark

*By Wendy Kennar*

I had painted "lollipop trees." At least, that's what my elementary 
school teacher said.

Our assignment was to paint watercolor landscapes. I painted trees with 
round tops, modeled after the pruned trees I saw as I walked to school 
each morning. I liked my painting; my teacher did not. She said my trees 
looked like lollipop trees; that they didn't look like real trees, 
although they looked like the trees I knew.

Mrs. E picked up a paintbrush and painted over my trees to make them 
look the way she thought trees should look.

For the rest of my school years, I never voluntarily took an art class.

Now that school is in session, I can't help wondering, worrying, what is 
it we're actually teaching our children? The three R's? Yes. But we're 
also teaching them, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly, to 
conform, to extinguish the spark that makes them individuals.

Children inherently believe they are invincible; good at everything. 
They can achieve anything. They don't think they can't do something 
until a grown-up tells them so. And that's when it begins to happen. Our 
children begin to lose their zest for life, and along with it, their 
self-confidence.

>From my 10th-floor apartment window, I see a large tree alive with 
purple blossoms. Seeing this purple tree makes me think of the very 
narrow, frankly, boring definitions we provide our children: The sky is 
blue, trees have green leaves and brown trunks, clouds are white, and 
frogs are green. But that's not the way things always are. During an 
intense, glorious sunset the sky is blood red. During a storm, the sky 
is black and foreboding.

And I still remember how shocked I was, all those years ago when I went 
to the San Diego Zoo with my dad and saw a blue frog.

As a kindergarten teacher, I tell my students that usually apples are 
red, green, yellow, sometimes a combination of red and yellow. But if 
they want to paint a blue apple I'm not going to stop them.

In November, I show them how to paint a turkey, and I use brown paint 
for the turkey's body.

Last year, one of my students painted her turkey's body pink. She's the 
artist. And yet I know teachers who insist that certain things be 
painted and colored a certain way. Why? What purpose do these narrow 
rules serve?

I always try to give my students a reason why we do things. While on the 
floor, we sit with our hands in our lap so Mrs. Kennar won't 
accidentally step on anyone's fingers. We sit with our legs crossed so 
that our classmates can walk by without tripping. These rules make 
sense; they serve a purpose. Where's the logic for a rule that states a 
turkey must be painted brown? Why can't a pink turkey live in a child's 
imagination?

Yes, we must continue to teach our children to lead responsible lives. 
But let us not forget to encourage our children to see the world with 
fresh and eager eyes.

And please, don't paint over their lollipop trees.

• /Wendy Kennar teaches kindergarten at Rosewood Avenue Elementary 
School in Los Angeles./

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