Monday, January 6, 2014

The Cat Pointer Reflection

Recently I met a new friend. I was working on a project with a colleague; I went to her home to work. When I walked in the door, her daughter met me and told me her name. "Guess how old I am," she said. I did. She introduced me to her cats and commented on what I was seeing as I entered the main room.

We sat down to work and she went to her room for a few minutes. She came back and said, "I made something for you. It's a cat pointer." (See left.) Later she told me that I could take it to my classroom and use it. (It's now in my reading materials.)

We went to get coffee. The girl wanted one of the stirring sticks. "Sticks are my favorite things," she told me. When I asked why, she explained all the things you could do with different sticks.

Her mother told her to go play with the iPad while we finished our work. "It's boring," the girl said. Then she decided to create more things in her room. Later, she introduced me to the friends she had made (from materials in the recycle bin). One of them could convert to a submarine to go under the water.

As I left, she presented me with another gift, a paper streamer colored with brown marker to wear around my neck. She showed me a duck push toy and said, "The next time you come, you can play with this."

I thought a lot about my new friend as I drove home...and a lot about her since then. She is creative and thoughtful. She is imaginative and articulate. We talked about a lot of other things that I didn't list here.  My new friend's personality, interests, and strengths will help her as she grows. But she has lots of advantages - a loving family, resources, a private school. She is younger than the kids in my class but her skills and actions are different from many kids in my class.

I've been thinking about the students in my class, too. I love my kids. I'm often surprised and amazed by the things they do. They are imaginative. They are interested in many things. They love to talk.

I worry about my kids, too. Unlike my new friend, many of their homes may not have much to stimulate the imagination. They have parents who must work long hours and who may not interact much with them at home because of responsibilities and rest. Some of them watch lots of TV or play video games and not much else in their free time.

My kids can tell great stories...but struggle with writing things down. They work hard but many still are developing skills that they "should have mastered" by now. I worry about my kids' future learning...and their futures. I'm going to do all I can to help them grow and succeed. But many things I have no way to impact or change.

There are lots of things that could be improved in our education system. But there are also lots of things that influence kids that schools and teachers cannot improve or change. Those influences don't determine a student's progress or future...but the influences cannot be ignored.

What does that mean for my class...my students...me? I'm still reflecting on that.

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