It Ain’t Easy Being Five

I’ve just spent the last hour
making myself angry

on purpose

shits and giggles on my day off

why do I do this
excellent question
there is a part of me
that cannot deny
I’ve enjoyed this indignation
this pleasure to indulge
in a case of moral outrage

last week I read an article
about a letter
sent to the parents of
kindergarten students

in case you’ve forgotten
we’re talking about
five year olds

The LetterApril 25, 2014 Dear Kindergarten Parents and Guardians, We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools, and, more specifically, to clarify, misperceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind is [sic] that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world. The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.   Sincerely, Ellen Best-Laimit Angela Casano Keri Colmone Stefanie Gallagher Martha DeMartini

Let’s move past the detail that
one of them doesn’t know
how to sign a document

let’s try to get to the place where
I can explain what I’ve been chewing on
what I remember of my
formal education experiences
doesn’t leave me with much
to complain about

I had access to music and arts
all the way through

I had good teachers and bad ones

I wasn’t always great student
and never the worst

but always the arts got me through
there was never a question
that this was my passion

The further I get from the system
I learn that sometimes I need
to learn in different ways
I discover interests and aptitudes
in the sciences and maths
that the conventional education formats
would, and did, never allow me to discover
because the goals were misguided

because the lesson
was about the answer
and not the exploring

here I am now
back at school
by my own choosing
discovering that
everything I’ve learned about 
learning
needs to be relearned
that I need to walk in every day 
as if for the first time

because all this 
end-goal educating
forgets to teach us 
how to be

it teaches us 
how to fake it
through submissive repetition

it teaches us
how to make it
on a bell curve

it teaches us
how to use an HB pencil
to fill in a bunch of
bubbles that will tell me
who I am supposed to be

imagine my surprise when
here at The School
I discover I have forgotten
how to learn for myself

that
there is no such thing as a report card
except the ones we write ourselves
there is no such thing as a graduation day
except the one after which nothing matters

besides
what is it that is so critical
for a five year old to learn
that is so vital 
that a five year old cannot waste two days

what are these crucial skills
without which
Bobby and Sally’s college applications
will stand no chance of being considered
fifteen years for now

but there must be something
in what these educators say
there must be some vital lessons
these precocious
potentially profoundly gifted children
would have missed out on

The show has been called off
because these adults

“… are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers.”

wait

hold on

um

this is a joke right

it has to be
right

let’s forget my artistic aspirations
let’s ignore my bias as an artist educator

let’s assess the visible benefits
of letting five year olds perform in a show

they learn how to read their lines
they have helped to write
in collaboration with classmates
with whom they must share a stage with

the lessons these kids learn
the How To Live Your Life
Within The Global Community lessons
will last longer than most adults
remember grade five mathematics
and impact not only their lives
but the lives of every person
they will ever interact with

these lessons
form the foundation
for how they learn
and why they learn
and what they choose to do with it

on top of this
please
of course
teach them maths and science
for all of our sakes
make sure they know how to write

but understand
it is in doing that a person learns
not in regurgitation
it is in research and discovery
that they learn to change the world
not endless hours of mindless spoon feeding

it is in the abstract application of fundamental ideas

it is in lessons
taught through play
that we become
important successful people

here’s my sticking point
the skills learned
through the experience

of creating something from nothing
of reaching out into great unknowns
of taking leaps of faith and imagination
of doing this in front of strangers and loved ones

by ten year olds
by teenagers
young adults
adults
me
my classmates here at The School

by five year olds

have implications
that ripple out
in every direction
from daily life interactions
to continued education
and the kinds of success
measured by the soul
and the bank
which ever you prefer

when I think back
through the many
many years in the
Education System
I notice a pattern

when I was in elementary school
the teachers from whom
I learned the most
were those that created
a room that encouraged
creativity that allowed
for space and breath
in which our young minds
could find the time to process
and integrate the higher knowledge
lessons we were tasked with

when I was in high school
the best among us
the ones with the futures
were found after school
in the music room
and the gym
the link was clear
for all of us to see

when I was in university
skipping classes so I could
play Artist
the students doing the most exciting work
more often than not
were double majors
were science and math and 
more often than not
these students are now 
blazing trails 
and still even now
finding ways to be artistic
because this is what fuels their life
what allows them to succeed in their field

what makes them
the kind of leaders and innovators
we aspired to be

the kind we dream
our children will become