Questions are posed by students that never fail to amaze me: Is this on the test? Why do I have to learn this? (As a counterpoint I found the following bit of information incredible: At 88, on his deathbed Michelangelo’s supposed last words were, “ancora imparando”- “I’m still learning”). Can you tell me when I’m gonna use this in real life? How can you expect us to know this stuff? Do these sound familiar to you in your role as parent, guardian and educator? Children are nothing save pragmatic. Every kernel of Science, English, Social Studies, Math, and so forth must have a practical purpose. Students focus during review classes; they attend extra help sessions. Inevitably one or two will say upon receiving their grades, I studied the wrong stuff.
Parents like numerical grades. Numbers give them that grit, that meat, that concrete evaluation of performance. So do letter grades. However proud my dad was of my report card, he would always add a caveat: There’s room for improvement. And so, the next day would begin the quest to repeat or improve my scholastic skills.
Robert Fulghum, author of Everything I Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten, suggested these basic ideas among others are the underpinnings of what enables us to grow, thrive and survive.
Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Live a balanced life–learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned–the biggest word of all–LOOK. (And there are no exams!)
These beliefs are simple, commonsensical, in and of themselves harmless, written in a feel good way that captured people’s psyches. It vaulted to the top of the New York Times best seller list in 1989. That was almost 30 years ago. The world appeared simpler and safer.
Real life, as students like to call it, will provide situations for them that leave no room for improvement. It is one thing to study for a quiz, a unit exam, a practical, or a final and receive a numerical or letter grade. It is a totally different evaluation when a stranger attempts to enter a child’s personal space; there is only one chance without possibility of a retest: it is Pass or Fail. This test can be taken at any time in anyone’s lifetime. Just scan the news for the past months and read the ages of those encountering sexual predators: preteens, teenagers, and college-aged students!
In Robert Fulghum’s list, certain words stand out in relation to stranger safety awareness: Watch out; Stick together; and LOOK. Awareness is learned more by copying a parent’s behavior than by a structured lesson in a classroom. Emphasizing the Buddy System is not only smart in school hallways but when allowing a child freedom of movement to visit friends or playgrounds. Playing games such as I spy with my little eyes from an appropriately early age develop a keener sense of one’s surroundings. The emphasis on who might enter a child’s personal space cannot be overemphasized. Fulghum’s view, Don’t take things that aren’t yours, might be used as a discussion starter between parent and child concerning invasion of personal space. This all comes down to preparation for a test, possibly a once in a lifetime test, that a child must PASS.
People are welded to the present. In the here and now a person must act. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of Business, wrote in a book review for the New York Times, Since you’ll never have enough information to make the best choice, all you can do is make the best of the choice you’ve made. The task as parents, guardians and educators is to engagingly, quietly, and assuredly prepare our children as best we can for something we hope never happens. A former peer loved to opine the five P’s: Prior planning prevents poor performance.
WATCH OUT! STICK TOGETHER! LOOK! Well stated.