How about something different?

H. continues to slowly heal, though her eye is still tightly swollen shut and she does NOT like it. The best comment of the day came this morning from K., who looked at H. and announced, "Hey! I didn't know that H.'s cheek looked just like everybody else's!" He was looking at the repaired side, and being able to overlook the sutures realized that it didn't look all that different anymore. Of course, I think he missed the whole surgery-thing, but he probably wasn't paying all that much attention because it didn't have to do with cars in any form. Sometimes he can be happily clueless.

But what continues to roll around in my head in between my nursing efforts on one hand and my referee career on the other is the book The Boy Who Would be a Helicopter by Vivian Gussin Paley, which I read while H. was in surgery. I still don't have anything coherent to say, but wanted to share a couple of the great many quotes I wrote down from it.

(Some background. It is written by a preschool teacher who uses children's story telling as the basis for learning in her classroom. At first glance, it might not seem a deeply interesting subject, but it is her conclusions that she draws from her years of observing children that I find so fascinating.)

So, just a few quotes for you to chew on as well...

Gail [one of the author's assistants] is already leafing through a dictionary. "Here," she says." 'Perseveration: continuation of something to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point.' Okay, next. 'Persevere: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter influences, opposition, or discouragement.'"

Trish [another of the author's assistants] looks worried. "Then is it only a matter of semantics? All these terms I'm learning, are they just arbitrary - uh, made-up...? I mean, don't these problems slow a child down?"

"Look Trish [spoken by the author], I'll admit I've little faith in your lists of so-called learning disabilities. But, in any case, none of the labels apply in a classroom that sees children as storytellers. These labels don't describe the imagination. A storyteller is always in the strongest position; to be known by his or her stories puts the child in the most favorable light."

Trish jumps up. "Of course! I really do see what you mean. How can a storyteller be fast or slow?"

And this...

Furthermore, these same children, who argue so ferociously over equal distribution of blocks and cookies and pink paint, defend a classmate's right to display unusual characteristics and make unreasonable demands. The children's concept of fairness is not limited by conformity; they want the equal opportunity to demand special treatment. It is unfair for Jason to disrupt a story, but he has the right to be the only one who builds a story room heliport.

One last one...

That [the boy building his heliport so that he could tolerate being in the story room] was one way of solving this diminishing problem. It worked for a while and then created problems of its own.

This is nearly always the way. Problems are not meant to be solved. They are ours to practice on, to explore and possibilities with, to help us study cause and effect. Important issues can't be solved with one grand plan - or in one school year. Some are worked at for a lifetime, returning in different disguises, requiring fresh insights.

Play itself is the practicing of problems.

I take it back. This is the last one, but it's short.

Those of us who presume to "teach" must not imagine that we know how each student begins to learn.

I highly recommend the book if you have or with with children. Just lots and lots to think about. And I didn't even get into the section on the time-out chair.


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