Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Window To That Future

At the end of the school day, we come in from outdoors and gather on the checker board rug to read a story together. Some of the kids make a contest of it, vying to be "first," "second," or "third." Others are prompt without the competitive edge, and then there are others who dawdle. This leaves us with time to kill while waiting for the full group to assemble. Over the course of the last couple years, I've started vamping on the phrase, "You snooze, you lose," threatening to start reading before everyone is there:

"I'm just going to start reading and those other kids are going to miss it: you snooze, you lose. That's right, this book is called Mooncake and it's about this bear who goes to the moon and eats cake and those other kids are going to be sad because they're snoozin' and losin'. I'm just going to open this book up to page one, start reading and the snoozers will be losers . . . "

It goes on an on and I don't actually start reading until all the kids are there, so no one actually loses. The kids who are habitually the first on the rug know it's a game, often collaborating in the riff: "Teacher Tom, they're snoozin' and doozin'!" or "I'm not snoozin' and I'm not losin'!"

I just think of it as a goofy way to kill time, but, you know, they're always learning. On Sunday, a parent sent me a message during the Super Bowl. "Sam just said, 'the Panthers are snoozing and losing.' Thank you for that one." It made my day.

I was reminded of a similar unintended moment of teaching from a few years back. We sometimes sing Malvina Reynold's great song Little Boxes in class, and while many artists have, over the years, taken liberties with her original lyrics, I like to stick with what she wrote, not altering it for a preschool audience. I don't expect the kids to fully understand the message, but my hope, I tell the parents, is that their children internalize it and one day, when someone is trying to put them into a little box, the words will come back to them as a kind of internal warning system.

Ava, who was always particularly fond of the folk music we sing in class was responsible for helping set the table for family dinner. Her mother told me that as she brought water to each family member she had started saying, "Here's your martini dry." I reckon the rest of those lyrics are in there somewhere and I expect they'll come to her when she needs them, just as Sam recognized that the moment was ripe for "snoozin' and losin'."

They're always learning and the only control we have over what they learn, really, are the things we say and the examples we set. We don't know what young children will chose to imitate, but they will never fail to imitate us because their job, as granted by god and nature, is to figure out what they need to know in this world and the adults in their lives are the biggest window to that future.

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