Friday, March 25, 2011

Week 24: Kids Being Kids?

So in my job, I give groups of about twenty 8 and 9 year olds plastic recorder and then I get annoyed when they play them when I'm talking. I also get irritated when they blow too hard into those "instruments" and make a screeching sound. The thing is about recorders is that the only way to make an acceptable musical sound is blow slowly and gently.

A couple days ago I had an especially pleasant class in which I spent a good amount of time helping students work on the recorder and finding myself being interrupted by the oh, so pleasant chirps of students playing out of turn. Apparently a couple of my students thought it would be fun to figure out how much of the recorder they could stick in their mouth and then try to make sounds by exhaling. And I can't forget the students who turned his recorder into a spit-ball launcher . . . SIGH.

Is it unreasonable to put a noise-maker into kids hands and expect them to sit quietly and not get distracted by them? If you have spent any amount of time with kids under the age of 10 you probably are thinking yes, especially when they are in groups. I would agree on some level.  If I'm teaching a class of students and none of them misbehave or get distracted at all than something is wrong with the class.

I'm not saying this because I think children are hopeless but it's simply a fact of child development.

Children are constantly in a state of redefining their relationships with the people and the world around them. Children need to test and find limits so that they can function. Babies need cribs not only so they don't roll onto the floor into the middle of the night but to feel enclosed, safe and secure. It's like how most of us would rather sleep in a bedroom of a normal size than one the size of a gymnasium.

As children get older instead of a crib they rely on different kinds of structure in there lives  and until they are able to construct and maintain these structures independently they need parents and teachers (which for the vast majority of people doesn't happen until they are in college or beyond). Some people never get to this point which is why we have police.

So should I get so annoyed when children are doing exactly what they are  suppose to be doing and testing their boundaries? Logically no and of course I shouldn't become personally offended, but c'mon I AM human and children need to learn that even though it is natural and understandable that they are trying to define their boundaries that it does sometimes lead to negative reactions.

While I understand it's hard for a student to not play an instrument that is in their hands, with some work and focus they can fight that temptation. It's hard, but it's not impossible. Teaching is a balance between understanding and embracing children's need reach out and feel the walls in their lives and pushing them beyond that stage to help them grow as young adults.

I could play it safe and not have them play recorders, drums and other instruments and there would be a lot fewer issues with them playing them out of turn but that would be a disservice to them. As much as it is an opportunity for children to be silly, push boundaries and create unspeakable noises, it’s also an opportunity for students to grow, learn how to express themselves and have meaningful educational experiences.

Sometimes, well, most of the time it’s worth the annoyance.

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