Friday, November 16, 2018

In A World Of Sharp Things

When I first started teaching at Woodland Park, I shared the space with another teacher: I taught the 3-5's and she the 2's. She had been hired a couple years before me so from my perspective it was my job to fit in around her, at least as much as I could. One day she scolded me over safety: "This morning I found a thumbtack on the floor. You need to be more careful, one of my two-year-olds could get hurt."

She was a more veteran teacher than I so I took the admonishment seriously. For years, even after she had moved on, I habitually treated thumb tacks as a hazard. But then time moved on and my views evolved. Of course, I don't want anyone to suffer pain, but we live in a world chockablock with sharp things, from knives to broken glass, and I now understand it's important to not unduly shelter the children, but rather to give them the chance to experience these potentially injurious things. Instead of artificially cocooning them, we undertake to teach children how to handle themselves around sharp things and, yes, to risk a bandage here and there.

Last week, the two-year-olds, who are now my two-year-olds, spent their morning literally playing with thumb tacks and scissors. This week our four-year-olds have been using brand new vegetable peelers (and thus quite sharp) to practice whittling, with the goal of moving on to actual knives by the end of the year.

I do understand my former colleague's concerns. No one wants their charges to bleed, to experience pain, to hurt, but these experiences are coming whether we like it or not. Did children poke their fingers on the thumb tacks? Yes. Did any of the whittlers take off a bit of skin? Yes. Then again, everyone pokes themselves with thumb tacks, especially when learning about them. Everyone takes off some skin with knives and other kitchen tools, especially when learning about them. This is part of the unalterable process of learning to live safely in a world full of sharp things.

No one has ever avoided those experiences. We may be able to prevent those small pains today or tomorrow, but eventually every one of us will suffer them. No one has ever prevented these injuries; we've only managed to pushed them off into the future. Much safer, I think, is to take the risk now, under our supervision, with our counsel, and near our first aid kit, than to leave it to that uncertain future.

I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share

No comments: