as our country entered election mania this fall and the news stations began their endless commentary on which states would be “red” and which would be “blue”, i found myself embarrassed. was missisippi west of alabama? what was the capital of west virginia again? how could one remedy such ignorance of place and country? why, with brightly colored placemats designed to teach children of course.
while standing in line, i was trying to non-vocally communicate to fellow shoppers that i was obviously buying them for my young students – not for myself. adults are supposed to already know all the states and their capitals. we should be purchasing the economist or at least newsweek not easy-wipe USA placemats.
then i had to smile. a frown kind of smile. a moment of connection. there are so many unspoken rules about when children are supposed to acquire certain concepts or skills. children are expected to learn about butterflies in first grade, the missions of california in fourth grade, “the call of the wild” in eighth grade, and so on. it can be difficult to swim against the tide. in special education our arms can get especially tired.
for example, though we know that we should wait to begin instruction in adding until a child consistently demonstrates one-to-one correspondence, adults rush things & then make excuses. if we don’t move on now we will never get to addition. or, his self confidence will suffer if the rest of his class starts addition without him. or, he memorized his math facts, surely he must understand one-to-one correspondence.
as such urgency can become the enemy of the educator. facts are acquired but concepts are not mastered. without a solid foundation, children cannot become owners of their learning. we need to give our children (& each other) the license to go back to the basics and begin again – slowly.
p.s is missisippi west of alabama? (yes!) what is the capital of west virginia again? (charleston!)