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Learning at its Best

a kindergarten memory

I choose to post this in lower-case, because it was a moment I felt unimportant, improper (hardly an I in that moment) and powerless against the system.

I have a kindergarten memory that I carry around with me, reminding me why students sometimes wander – both physically and philosophically.

Station time begins and I’m lost in the chaos and the movement and the sense that everybody but me knows where to go. It’s not that I wasn’t listening. It’s that I didn’t find the directions important. I listened when she read the story. I paid close attention to the explanation of patterns. I thought I listened when she gave directions, but then, I don’t know, they slipped away somehow. It just sort-of evaporated while I thought about how no one ever grieved for the dead in The Three Little Pigs and screw the brick buildings.  A life without brothers can’t possibly be a happy ending.

I wander toward the window and stare out into the hallway.

“What are you doing right now?” the teacher gently asks.

“I’m looking out the window,” I tell her without the slightest bit of eye contact.

“What are you looking at?” she asks.

“I’m looking at the orange-haired boy . . .”

“Red-haired?” she asks.

“Nuh huh, it’s orange. Take a look,” I point.

“Why are you looking at him?” she asks.

“Because he has no idea what’s going to happen to him. Soon he’ll be in kindgergarten and then it’s going to be forever when he finishes school and then right when he finishes it, he’s going to have to go to college. Then he’ll work a job and they’ll tell him where to sit again.  It’s like it never stops,” I say.

“I thought you liked this class,” she says with a pained expression on her face.

“I do. School is fun. But I wish I could run out there and tell him to enjoy the freedom. I’d tell him to get out of the stroller and run around, because pretty soon he’ll be told where to sit. I would tell him to play while he has the chance,” I say.

It’s not as if I love learning and hate school. It’s just that I recognize, in this moment, that school is a broken gift.

I sigh, turn around and find my way to my station with the low group. We’re not supposed to know that we’re the low group. After all, we’re the tigers. But if we are the tigers, we’re either defanged or in a zoo, yearning for a chance to be wild.


About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


2 thoughts on “a kindergarten memory

  1. I like your take on The Three Little Pigs. I’ll have to go back and read it again now.

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m the kid with the orange hair. No maybe actually we all are.


    Posted by Kirsten | May 9, 2011, 4:37 pm
  2. I’m really looking forward to schools that follow kids into their learning and play instead of counter-intuitively keeping them from both.

    Great post, John – how much more play-space should we help create, and what should we be prepared to pay to do so?

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | May 9, 2011, 6:43 pm

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