Studies on brain development in children, verify that younger brains gather, categorize, and build on information (what we refer to as learning) at exponential rates compared to adults. In addition to learning how to talk, walk, eat with utensils, ties shoes, use the potty, etc. children are learning who to trust, or not trust. They are learning what makes mommy & daddy smile, and what makes them mad. They can also learn to have a gracious and loving heart, or how to steal, cheat, lie, hurt, hate, and experiment with age inappropriate behaviors.
When publishers and other for profit companies react to the latest government mandate, and send waves of curriculum (Open Court, Common Core, Personalized Learning) to our school shores, their products address what adults think children should learn at: Math Time, the English Language Arts Block, or during their Computer sessions. They are not taking into consideration that even during those lessons, students are learning more than the content of the curriculum. They are learning whether they are good at those subjects as presented, or not good. They are learning to enjoy and look forward to those academic periods, or dread them. They are learning how to be engaged, how to just look engaged, or even how to escape the activity all together through subtle or disruptive behavior.
These companies most certainly are not creating curriculum for the playground, the restrooms, the cafeteria, the bus ride, the walk to and from school, etc. In other words, during all of the other learning periods of the day, during the times when the only teachers are peers, ordinary adults, pop music, video games, and the physical environment, children’s brains are still on over-drive soaking up information that forms who they are.
In the last post, I mentioned that my ordeal with the “pussy bushes” lasted from 2nd grade through part of 3rd grade, so what happened to stop it? Well, it wasn’t a what it was a who: Kevin Leonard. I barely noticed his arrival at the beginning of the year because I had learned during 2nd grade that if I complained of feeling sick (stress related in retrospect), I could stay home from school. In fact, I was so sick at the beginning of 3rd grade that I missed two months of school. When I got back and the “pussy bush” brigade started in on me, a new tall boy who looked like Michael Jackson was observing from the sidelines. I noticed that the other boys deferred to him, and after about a week they backed off and he asked me “to go with him”. I could tell that in order to maintain my reprieve the answer needed to be “yes”. As Kevin Leonard’s consort, I was suddenly elevated to playground royalty. After he and I were married behind the bungalow – with full mouth kissing at the end — the same boys who had terrorized me became sycophants begging me for a solitary kiss on the cheek, an action that elevated them to a consort level. So by the end of 3rd grade I had learned my multiplication facts and long division, a lot about Zebras, and that my new teacher ate plain yogurt at recess while we were out of the room; but the lesson that was seared into my brain long after my “7s” and “9s” slipped away, was that my very survival at school could only be achieved through submission to the popular boy, and that I could gain satisfying revenge by manipulating and humiliating my tormenters.
What are the students around you learning?