Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stop and smell the goose poop

I took Moo on a walk this afternoon. It's spring break, and it was sunny and 70 outside, and I had spent the whole day in a hotel basement at a language acquisition seminar (which actually was wonderfully inspiring and made me want to run off and start my PhD in Second Language Acquisition...but that's another story), so it was time for my outside fix.

It's really springtime here. We'll probably get a 2-foot snowstorm before the end of April, but today the daffodils were blooming and the trees were budding and everyone in the neighborhood was in the park riding their bikes and flying their kites and walking their dogs and practicing their soccer and playing their tennis. And Moo kept stopping every 30 seconds to sniff around at goose poop and worms, poking through the dirt and reeds, and I kept trying to drag him along, realizing that his harness was not designed to pull him forward, only back. So I resigned myself to going at his pace: meander, backtrack, sniff, explore, repeat. And I started noticing all kinds of things. The patterns of the wind on the lake. The mallards sleeping on the shore. The kids on the porch swing across the street. The freshly plowed flowerbeds. The shiny red buds on branches above my head. The little girl with her daddy buying paletas de fresa. The grandpa teaching a kid to fly a kite. Isn't that what a walk's supposed to be? Feeling a part of it all? Not hurrying along with headphones stuffed in my ears.

It reminded me of school. Here are our kids, inquirers by nature, stopping to poke around at every little thing that fascinates them but that we as teachers all too often fail to notice. And we yank them along by the leash, powering through the curriculum, making stops only for the sights we know will reappear on the standardized tests, dragging them past all the things of real interest. Goose poop isn't on the standardized test. (Or that all it is?, no, that would be something a bit different.) No wonder so many of our kids seem to lose their natural curiosity, to become apathetic toward school in general. No wonder so many of our teachers get burnt out with it too. That's not the way it has to be. Which brings me back to the seminar. Ahhh, education that matches the way brains actually learn. More on that another day.