Tuesday, March 9, 2010

You've Got the Power

My wife helps lead a preschool choir at our church. Recently she took several recycle/repurpose items to create some "environmental instruments" to use with the other rhythm instruments. She took some paper towel tubes, plastic plates, and some paper wads; children took pairs of each item to tap together and create some different rhythm sounds.

Another teacher remarked that she had brought trash for the kids to use...and her tone was an unfavorable one. Kids immediately began calling the items "trash," especially the paper wads. They used them reluctantly and quickly moved to change to something else when the time came. Weeks later, they still refer to the items as trash and want to quickly trade whenever they can. Last week, while one child was tapping the paper wads together, another child said, "He's got the trash!" The first kid immediately dropped them and wouldn't play until he moved to the next instrument.

We, as teachers, have the power to influence the kids in ways that go beyond learning. Our reactions, comments, facial expressions, and words can impact how kids feel about what they are doing and even how they feel about themselves. How I wish that teacher had enthusiastically said, "Look at what we can use as instruments. We can use things that normally would be thrown away to make rhythms and music." I think then the kids would be excited to use "trash" as instruments.

This made me think of the Spiderman quote: "With great power comes great responsibility." If an idea seems unusual to me, I should help explore it (not dismiss/reject it immediately). I shouldn't try to impose my interests and tastes on the kids. I need to help them explore a variety of ideas and develop their own unique interests and tastes.

Photo from Flickr.com
Photographer: toastforbrekkie


  1. I agree with you 100%, Scott. My students LOVE when we reuse things that would of otherwise been thrown away. I am certain it is because of my attitude. I get excited about, and then in return they do. These kids need to know how important it is. This era is all about being green, and this era, is theirs! :)

  2. Oh my gosh!!! I would just want to ring her neck for calling the instruments trash!!! LOL! Not very Christian-like huh! You are so right, we need to be aware of how we impact the attitudes and interests of our students! You really got my gander up with this post:) Tell your wife to keep up the great work!

  3. I'm totally with you on this one. Even with older students, the same thing is true. Our influence is often so subtle that we miss it. My students end up liking the music I like or sharing beliefs I hold, not because I push it on them, but because I am an influence on them. It's a little bizarre sometimes.

  4. You're right, Scott, our word choices and attitudes have amazing impact on our students. One of the college instructors used to make us keep track of every single statement we made while working with young children, then later go back and figure out how we could have said things in a better way. He wouldn't let us just record ourselves, we had to slow down and take a manual note of every sentence. It was an amazingly eye-opening exercise. Some days I still do it as a reminder.

    We keep our recycling box on the floor right by the block area. The kids can rummage through it like a toy box!

  5. I am ashamed to say that jealously and competitiveness among teachers is still prevalent.
    I used to think of it more in a field for doctors or lawyers but its everywhere and children see that behavior and watch how we respond. Sometimes, we have to go back and have to 'unlearn' our kids for what they just saw and heard from us.
    Your wife clearly has excellent ideas and is forward thinking in a "go green" kind of way. This may scare some people...I for one encourage her to move forward in her positivity. Education is key...we can't all stay in the dark ages, after all.
    And as for the person that thinks great ideas are 'trash'...
    One of 2 things may happen...
    Knowledge is power or ignorance is bliss- it's always choice.