I’ve had some thoughts for my next post for a few months now and decided it is time to share what has been bouncing around in my mind…..dreams or what has happened to dreams in the education world? Let me state, I am not advocating for the abandoning of standards or curriculum. We must educate our students to the very best of our ability every day within our classrooms. Okay, now that the disclaimer is out of the way I can begin.
Many years ago my mom told me a story of myself as a young child and it goes like this. One day she was walking down the hallway of our home and heard cheering and applause coming from my bedroom and as any mother would do she decided to peek in on me. The scene she observed was me performing for all my stuffed animals. My animals were lined up side by side to enjoy the show. Of course, I was also making the sound effects of my audience cheering at my performance. I am sure my animals were giving me a standing ovation (I am embellishing). You see I was a spirited little child and truth be told probably a hair challenging, at times. I also had a big imagination that was filled with hopes and dreams. I can not recall what my performance was for my lively audience. I may have been a singer, gymnast, figure skater or anyone my little imagination could conjure up at that particular time. My point to this trip down memory lane is whatever I was doing that particular day was a dream.
Dreams are an integral part of childhood. One definition of dream is a cherished aspiration, ambition, or goal. Children begin their educational journey at the tender age of 5. They are wide-eyed, full of excitement, wonder, and dreams. Dreams of digging up dinosaur bones, walking on the moon, living among the woodland or jungle animals, seeing the wild mustangs runs on the beach, swimming with whales, studying penguins, and saving a kitty stuck in a tree. The few dreams I have mentioned are cultivated in a classroom many times through play. A child sitting at a sand table watching the sand pour through his/her fingers plants the seed for a new tool that will move or sift sand in a more efficient manner, but at the time discovering a dinosaur bone was the dream. Another child is standing at a table building a rocket out of cubes, legos, or toothpicks and marshmallows and the seed is planted for a new spacecraft or just a small part that is necessary for the spacecraft to lift off, but at the time landing on Mars was the dream. In the back corner, two students are sketching and creating with markers, glitter, sequins, or just an 8 pack of crayons. Those creations may be the next new clothing line or illustrations for a children’s book that will be written 20 years in the future. You see these are dreams. The hopes, aspirations, and ambitions being brought to life in a classroom that is cultivating the little mind of a 5 year old.
Unfortunately, the scenes described above are not those being played out in classrooms around the country. The scenes are students completing mindless worksheets or test prep material in hopes of reaching a magic test score that exists somewhere out there in the universe. A score that in all reality means very little at the end of the day. I teach 3rd grade and have heard many times over from various students over the years….I hate school…another test….I’m not a good reader because I am still a yellow dot….do we have to. It saddens me to hear those phrases from a child who is only 8 years old. I ponder those sad phrases and wonder where have the dreams gone in education? What will we do as educators to be sure our students are able to dream? I am reminded of a quote from Mister Rogers “Children’s outside world has changed, but their insides haven’t.” Those 3rd graders didn’t change, but somewhere along the line we in education decided to change. I read a statement this morning as I was scrolling through Instagram by Matt Halpren that goes hand in hand with my blog post and I asked if I could please share his thought “Kindergartners should be blowing bubbles, not filling them in.” Blowing bubbles like a dandelion blowing in the wind.
I close with a scene from my own classroom earlier in the school year. I read the book The Raft by Jim LaMarche as our mentor text for the week. (You can find the overall lesson by Amy Lemons and Katie King creators of Rooted in Reading by googling their names.) I decided to take the lesson a step further and transform the classroom into a woodland wonder and on the last day I brought in cardboard to create a pretend raft. The students were able to sketch, color, and write on the raft just like Nicky from the story. The students were abuzz with laughter, joy and wonder. I am not sure if that one activity will increase one child’s test score, but I am sure that at least one of those 3rd graders loves animals and was dreaming of being the next Jane Goodall, Jeff Corwin, Dr. Laurie Marker, or Dr. Paula Kahumbu. Hopefully, that child will look back and remember being in a classroom on a makeshift raft of cardboard remembering his/her 3rd grade teacher planting a seed to fulfill a dream.
“The duty of an educator is to let his/her students dream, help them find the thing that captures their heart and seems worth devoting the whole life to.” tweet by Shilpi Mahajan.
Let me share my dream. I have a dream to write a children’s book about the little girl dreaming in her bedroom that will be titled “Valerie’s Dandelion Dreams” dedicated to my mom and dad who let this little dandelion dreamer dream. I love you both!