Today at work, my co-teacher brought out an activity meant to be done by one or two children on the floor. It was a large world map and a basket of toy animals. The animals had paws that were color-coded to the continents on the map, and the purpose of the activity was to place the animals on the continent to which they were indigenous. Cool. She demonstrated the activity to two children: a bright girl who pretty much does everything perfectly (you know the type), and a boy, one of those boys that teachers call “active” or “intense” when we’re in a good mood. I watched them work together to complete the activity, and then I moved away.
When I returned, the boy was alone with the animals and map. He was moving the animals from continent to continent, making them talk to one another in a quiet voice. I chatted with him a little about what he was doing, but generally let him be. As soon as my co-teacher saw him, however, she swooped in and began to chide him for putting the animals on the wrong continents. He protested that “they’re walking home.” I told her that he had completed the activity correctly, and she acknowledged that, but still reinforced that he was supposed to do it “right.”
There are times when I feel very out-0f-place at my job. I work at a school that is attempting to “open up” their Montessori curriculum; my co-teacher is probably the most traditional Montessorian left at the school. (I don’t think this is coincidence. There were three new teachers, including me, hired to the early childhood program and partnered with teachers who’d been at the school a long time; of the three of them, I’m the only one with no Montessori training, in the most Montessori classroom). She’s much more invested in teaching academic skills than I am, and while she’s able to pay lip service to the need for dramatic and creative play, they’re not at all her priority. It’s hard for me to know how much to push my agenda: I’m pretty sure I was hired and paired with her for a reason, but I’ve only been there three months (to her fifteen years). However, I also realize that I’ve been spoiled during my short career, teaching at schools and programs that were so in line with my own philosophy. This job ain’t perfect, but what is?
One of my students put it perfectly the other day, in one of those moments where children are wiser than they intend.
“(Brynhildr), you’re too silly to be here.”
“Really? Where should I be?”
“A silly school.”
Someday, kid. Someday.