Saturday, December 23, 2006

I wanted to talk about Kindergarten because for most of us, Kindergarten is where our formal education began. I also have a special interest in Kindergarten because my mother is a retired Kindergarten teacher from the Omaha Public Schools, and it was observing her that gave me my first understanding of what teachers were and what they did. In my first childish and naive view of teaching, I thought that what my mother did was go to school each day and play with children. It was only later as I matured that I began to see all the planning time that went into her work and all the accounting time that went into documenting her classroom activities and the performance of her children. It was obvious to me which areas were of greatest interest to her and which were not.

My mother is very creative and loved the engagement with the children. She came home each day with stories reflecting on the various forms of mischief and humor brought into the classroom by her students, and even today at the age of 85, she is often asked to speak to groups of teachers about her experiences. My mother was always inventing new ways to reach her children, inspire their learning and hold their interest. She made puppets, played the piano, wrote songs for the children to sing during various activities, invented teaching methods and became known as one of Omaha's most talented teachers. She took particular interest in school conferences and the opportunities they offered to help young parents take greater interest and participation in their children's education.

You can see that her teaching met 3 distinct areas of interest from the list below: Creative Production, Counseling and Mentoring, and Influence Through Language and Ideas. The most challenging area, in which my mother felt little interest was in Quantitative Analysis. When it was time to develop the cumulative folders at the end of each semester, documenting her student's activities for their permanent records, we knew as she came home late and exhausted that it was not as fun or fulfilling as being with kids.

It is interesting that depending on your view, a teacher may be the best in the world or the worst. From the standpoint of the child, to have a teacher who is creative, imaginative and engaging would be the best in the world. But from the standpoint of a school administrator, the best might be chosen based on the timely fulfillment of administrative requirements. Creative and experimental teaching in which there are no guaranteed outcomes might be regarded as a serious threat to the order some might desire in the school. You can easily see that teaching can involve a set of activities, some fun, some not, and in balance, for a teacher to make a career, there needs to be fulfillment of personal interest. In my mother's case, she found a supportive administration that appreciated and encouraged her creativity and made the less pleasant challenges of teaching manageable.

Now, I would like to tell of the very brief teaching career of my friend Zeek. He graduated from the Memphis Art Academy and got a job as an art teacher in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The first day of teaching, as Zeek was waiting for the students to arrive, the principle stepped into his classroom to state Zeek's charge for the year. "I want your students to be quiet at all times." Nothing more was said. It is easy to see why Zeek is now a very successful painter who refuses to teach. This is a short story, but very long on implications and sadly instructive of the field of education.

1 comment:

  1. Did Zeek classrom reside over the principal's office?