Tuesday, April 13, 2010

fish out of water

It has been said that the fish will be the last to discover water. I ran across that line in a book by educational psychologist (and more) Jerome Bruner.

What is it like to live in the surrounding sea of a mother's love? Many of us have had that experience, and for me, in the past few days, I can tell you that such seas can surround, even when the water has left the tub.

I have been considering the significance of kindergarten and the teaching of Friedrich Froebel, and a great place to learn about him and his work is Norm Brosterman's book, Inventing Kindergarten. It is a book I highly recommend.

Kindergarten has had a profound influence on the ever changing landscape of American education. Sometimes the school pendulum swings toward the manipulative objects, songs, and finger play that Froebel brought to the world's education, and sometimes it swings severely (and coldly) in the other direction. My mother's classroom at Wakonda Elementary was firmly rooted in Froebel's music and imaginative play, and in my mind if the pendulum ever swings far from what she did in her classroom, (as it has in more recent years, NCLB and all) then we present tragic circumstances for our nation's children.

Froebel's mother died when he was less than one year old, and having lost the sea of love which surrounds many of us, he understood and explained the role that mother's love played in the growth of a child. He recognized and taught that the young mother was the child's first teacher, and through his book, Mother-Play and Nursery Songs, 1844, proposed the means through which mothers might take a more deliberate role in their children's education. Also, while teaching up until the time of Froebel was a masculine occupation, Froebel understood the potential of women as teachers in schools. And so, as my mother chose her career as a teacher, it was to be planted in the grounds prepared by Froebel's kindergarten. As Dorothy Stowe became a young mother, the foundation of her kindergarten training at Iowa State Teacher's College, brought strength and purpose to that as well.

And so, this morning I propose a simple swing in American education. I want to give schools a very gentle nudge. Instead of kindergarten being an early childhood thing, I would like to propose that its spirit prevail in all things. Can you imagine schools from which all young men and women emerge with a clear understanding of their own roles and responsibilities in teaching and nurturing their own children? I was lucky in that regard to have a kindergarten teacher for a mother, who understood the principles of gentle, systematic early childhood development and growth. I am grateful for the calm sea in which I learned to swim and very proud of what my mother did through her long career to still the waters for children and young parents at Wakonda Elementary in Omaha, Nebraska. If you've got kids, teach them to do real stuff. Make time for the virtual world to be put to rest. Cook, care, nourish, make, fix, create, plant, sew, grow, educate, educe, draw forth.

1 comment:

  1. "Make time for the virtual world to be put to rest"
    Well said Doug.
    Kids do not make time for simple pleasures. This Saturday is opening day for trout. The few students of mine that are even going fishing are all using bait. None of them know the pleasure of catching a trout on a hand tied fly like I plan to, God willing. And where did I learn to make my own lures? In a lure club that my wood shop teacher started after school, over 40 years ago. That teacher of mine never knew how much he would impact my life.
    I am sure you will never know how many lives you have influenced through your books, teaching, and this blog. But please, keep on blogging! It influences me and makes my day when I get a chance to read what you have to say!
    Thanks Doug.