Friday, October 23, 2009

In which I rant.

Garbage truck.
Move back, please.
Fill it up, please.

I give you a fragment of O’s vocabulary. He will be two in November. He climbs on phone books to paint or crayon at an easel, drags his high chair over to the kitchen bench to splash in the kitchen sink, and converses quite happily.
Suzukisinger and I have many discussions about the possibilities and pitfalls for parenting. She’s worried when she meets three-year-olds who identify garbage trucks, transporter trucks, big trucks, little trucks, cranes, bobcats and cement trucks as “truck”. Me too.
Clearly that’s all their parents think they’re capable of.
I worry that we live in a world that dumbs down because we think children are incapable of understanding complex concepts. They’re not. They might be currently unable to articulate them (and I am the first to admit that O’s exclamations occasionally confound me just as much as delight), but why limit their understanding by catering to their physical ability to articulate?
A good friend of mine was horrified when a father told his two-and-a-half year-old son “That’s a propeller. Oh no, that’s too hard for you. That’s a prop. A prop!”
Hmmm. Well done, dad. Baby talk is cute. It’s not so cute when you inflict it upon your child. I’ve decided this is effectively retarding your child’s development.
Who knows what a Galileo thermometer is?
How would you find out? Type it into Google? I’m currently offline, so can’t do this myself, but I hypothesise that among the top five sites will be a Wikipedia entry which will show me the thermometer, explain how it works, perhaps give me a hint to it’s origins and evolution… maybe even link to suggestions for it’s use.
It’s Wednesday. I’m at school. Lunchtime in the well-populated staffroom:
Grade 5/6 teacher to assembled cohorts: “So, does anyone know how a Galileo thermometer works?”
Principal: “What’s a Galileo thermometer?”
 5/6: “You know, one of those glass tubes with all the little balls of colored water inside, and they change places when it gets hotter or cooler?”
Me (because I have a habit of sticking my supersize oar into discussions WHENEVER possible and stirring vigorously): “Um, they’re not full of water. They’re actually different liquids; like, chemically different, with different viscosity.”
Someone else: “Ooh, you know that and you’re the violin teacher!”
(Now, that’s another rant all by itself - which I chose not to become distracted by at that point. I know. MIRACULOUS. I could probably get a week’s worth of blogs out of that, but then you’d all get very sick of me and no-one would ever read my ranting again. Very sad. )
Me (attempting to fill gaping pit of silence which has just opened with twelve teachers staring at me): “You could probably stick it into Wikipedia and get a fairly common-sense explanation that the kids could relate to, but I think the movement of the globes relates to molecular excitation and the way they vibrate at different amplitudes according to temperature… which makes the liquid more or less dense than water so they sink or rise.”
Principal (possibly a little peeved, hard to be sure): “And how do you know all that?”
(Note: she was smiling at this point, but I’m not sure if it was the canine-baring of an animal protecting it’s gaping intestines until it’s last breath or something more friendly.)
Me (remember that reference to vigorous stirring? Remember, I’m in a primary school.): “Oh, sorry, I was homeschooled. I guess I know all kind of weird, random stuff. But – you know, the internet - it’s so easy to find stuff out now.”
5/6: “No, it’s far to hard to explain all that molecule-y stuff to kinds. They’ve got no clue!”
And whose fault is that?
I didn’t say it. I nearly did.
Hilariously, last night when recounting this to my in-laws, between the three of us we immediately came up with accessible ideas:
Matching kids up with the liquids. Talk about how the liquid will change with temperature and then say “It’s getting hotter!” Who rises? Who falls? Who can jiggle about the fastest demonstrating molecular excitation? What happens when movement slows?  This liquid is made up of smaller molecules and this is larger… what does that mean when THEY start to jiggle about? The possibilities are endless, and we haven’t even begun to think.
Oh my goodness… Some days I am so pleased and so proud of the kids that I teach for all that they achieve and all they understand, and other days I am devastated by the many ways we fail them every day.
How do we make our parents, teachers, schools sit up and realise that by continuing to expect mediocrity, we will barely achieve even that poor goal?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too true. I am vividly reminded of the time Z's grandma said "look at the big flower, Z!" and was floored by the response: "It's a protea, Grandma." Grandma then spent a lot of time going on about how many kids her age (I think she was around 20mths - certainly under 2) would know that, though I maintained at the time that it was a feature of kids that age not being told, whereas I, being a nerd, tended to rattle off the name of birds and plants whenever possible. J could differentiate magpies and crows at an early age. And rainbow lorrikeets from rosellas. Because she was told how.
It's the pygmalion effect - kids will live up (or down) to your expectations of them.