Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Something To Think About



"The pig says, Moo."

It's not exactly how I greet 2-year-olds on their first day of school, but pretty close, holding a toy pig in the air and asserting this thing that they all know to be false. 

There were wrinkled brows, perplexed stares, and knowing grins. Sometimes a child will respond by handing me a toy cow.  Others will shake their heads, like Silas did yesterday; shaking his head, smiling and saying directly to me, softly, "No." None of them agree with me (although in a week or two some of them will, joining me in what they'll understand to be a silly game). This is one of the many wonders of 2-year-olds: they've not yet learned the knee-jerk responses of "Yes," "No," "Thank you," "Please," "I'm fine and you?" They've not yet formed the habits of simply agreeing with teachers or other authority figures. And as long as they're at Woodland Park I hope they never come to think of teachers as having any kind of authority. If they're going to "follow" Teacher Tom I want it to be because he's a good playmate, because cool things happen when he's around, because he causes my brow to wrinkle, my brain to fire, my ears to perk up, my eyes to open wider.


"The sheep says, Oink."

Parents were on their knees with us. It's hard for many of them to not press gently when the silence stretches for more than a few seconds, "Is that what a pig says?" or "What does a pig say?" It sounds like a joke to them, I suppose, and they want their child to get it, they want them not to appear rude, they want to hear a response, although all of the children are already responding, even if it's just through their silence. Yesterday, none of the children answered their parent's questions, at least not so I could hear them, but rather continued to look from me to the animal I held in my hand. A few of them began to play nearby, still pausing every now and then to look my way, from the corners of their eyes, as I persisted in saying things they knew were not true. Amelie kept stopping in her play to stare at me full on, as if to ask, "What is going on with this guy?" then got busy before stopping to stare again.

"The cow says, Baa."

After Silas broke the ice, a few more of them began to correct me and I accepted the correction, giving the toy animals their proper voice, but that's not the important part of this exercise. I'm not looking for anything correct: neither a correction nor a correct answer. What I'm really after are those wrinkled brows, perplexed stares, and knowing grins, evidence that I've sparked thought, evidence that this guy everyone is calling Teacher Tom bears watching, a careful ear, a critical mind. 

My job is to encourage thinkers, and when the pig says, moo, that's something to really think about.

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5 comments:

Brenna said...

I love doing and saying things to make young students think. I do this by reading familiar books and stories but changing the words just a bit. When I read a very familiar story to the students, they know the words and how the story goes, but when I change a word to a silly word or a different word, it encourages them to think and really listen to the words of the story.

PLW said...

Ohh no, I say, that isn't right.
Pigs say "oink" all day and night.

Meagan said...

My toddler doesn't actually know that the cow says "moo" yet. He used to freak out whenever my husband or I did an animal sound, so we got out of the habit. I figure he'll pick it up,when he needs to know that the cow says "moo," he doesn't seem to care much right now one way or the other.

Sara's Adventure said...

Ah, thank you for the thought bath. Let's wait and listen because silence says so much :)

Practical Parent said...

Absolutely! Also, I love that you are teaching kids to question and disagree when something goes against their beliefs. The dawning of the sense of humor in these "babies" is an honor to observe as well.

Dawn Elise Carlsen

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