BY SHARON MARTIN
I read to a group of second graders every month, and in December I introduced them to Sharon Creech and her marvelous book, Love That Dog. It teaches foreshadowing and prediction, and it introduces young students to such poets as Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and Walter Dean Myers.
After I read the book aloud, I asked the students to make their own poem inspired by Williams’ poem that begins like this: “So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow … ”
A second grade boy who loves football and reading said, “So much depends upon a dog, racing down the street, his ears flying.”
“Wow,” I said. He got the book and he got the poem.
I was impressed enough to tell his grandmother about it, so she shared one of his language arts papers with me.
“He’s so frustrated,” she said. “He’s supposed to underline the past-tense verbs in these sentences.”
He’d missed them all.
That’s when I threw my fit.
A few days later, I had a déjà vu experience when talking to my friend, children’s book author Anna Myers. Her grandson, Paul, also a second-grader, was having trouble labeling words in sentences with the correct parts of speech. Now, this is another school and another state.
“I know he’s difficult to have in class.”
Paul can’t sit still, he asks a lot of questions, and he reads well above grade level. He’s also learning who and what he is in the scheme of the education system.
“I wish I could be a good boy all the time,” he told his grandmother.
“You are a good boy,” she told him, “and no one is good all the time.”
Will he believe it when the school has labeled him a problem?
The students in Paul’s school get one 20-minute recess a day, which Paul often loses because of his inability to be still and quiet. Students are not allowed to talk in the lunch room.
“It breaks my heart,” Anna said.
Mostly, it just makes me angry that people who have never taught school or studied developmental psychology should decide what students should be learning when. I’m angry that legislators and their corporate sponsors put so much pressure on schools that administrators have replaced play time with drill time.
Recess is more essential to child development than being able to identify parts of speech. Grammar skills don’t always make good readers or writers. And standardized students didn’t make America the greatest country in the world.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer