A quiet week…
It’s that time of year when we all have heads down and we are hard at work. There aren’t too many distractions (with the exception of the occasional delayed start!) , the weather is OK but not giving us spring fever yet, and all of the routines are in place in our classrooms to really dig into the hard work of learning. So, I don’t have much to share this week. However, as we continue with our school-wide tree theme and you can see with the pics below, we have some really neat examples of how teachers are integrating that into their lessons.
All 5th-Middle school PE electives get to participate in this unit. Each student must pass a safety test at 80% or higher and complete an 11 step guide to successful archery before they can use the equipment. We have a contest for points at the end for marksmanship. Mrs. Hanenberg has done a nice job of integrating language arts curriculum into this unit and tied in our upcoming Olympics.
The Fragile Generation (taken from an article by Skenazy& Haidt), continued, Part 3 of 4
This installment is part 3 in a 4 part series.
Of Trophies and Traumas
A few years ago, Boston College psychology professor emeritus Peter Gray was invited by the head of counseling services at a major university to a conference on “the decline in resilience among students.” The organizer said that emergency counseling calls had doubled in the the last five years. What’s more, callers were seeking help coping with everyday problems, such as arguments with a roommate. Two students had dialed in because they’d found a mouse in their apartment. They also called the police, who came and set a mousetrap. And that’s not to mention the sensitivity around grades. To some students, a B is the end of the world (to some parents, too).
Free play has little in common with the “play” we give children today. In organized activities, adults run the show. It’s only when the grown-ups aren’t around that the kids get to take over. Play is training for adulthood.
Part of the rise in calls could be attributed to the fact that admitting mental health issues no longer carries the stigma it once did, an undeniably positive development. But is could also be a sign, Gray realized, that failing at basic “adulting” no longer carries the stigma it once did. And that is far more troubling.
Is this outcome the apotheosis of participation-trophy culture? It’s easy to scoff at a society that teaches kids that everything they do deserves applause. But more disturbing is the possibility that those trophies taught kids the opposite lesson: that they’re so easily hurt, they can’t handle the sad truth that they’re not the best at something.
Not letting your kids climb a tree because he might fall robs him of a classic childhood experience. But being emotionally overprotective takes away something else. “We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to…experience failure and realize they can survive it,” Gray has said. When Lenore’s son came in eighth out of nine teams in a summer camp bowling league, he got an eighth-place trophy. The moral was clear: We don’t think you can cope with the negative emotions of finishing second-to-last. Of course, it’s natural to want to see kids happy. But the real secret to happiness isn’t more high fives; it’s developing emotional resilience. In our mania for physical safety, coupled with our recent tendency to talk about “emotional safety,” we have systematically deprived our children of the thousands of challenging–and sometimes upsetting–experiences that they need in order to learn that resiliency. And in our quest to protect them, we have stolen from children the best resilience training known to man: free play.
Play’s the Thing
All mammals play. It is a drive installed by Mother Nature. Hippos do backflips in the water. Dogs fetch sticks. And gazelles run around, engaging in a game that looks an awful lot like tag.
Why would they do that? They’re wasting valuable calories and exposing themselves to predators. Shouldn’t they just sit quietly next to their mama gazelles, exploring the world through the magic of PBS Kids?
It must be because play is even more important to their long-term survival than simply being “safe.” Gray’s main body of research is on the importance of free play, and he stresses that it has little in common with the “play” we give kids today. In organized activities–Little League, for example–adults run the show. In free play, ideally with kids of mixed ages, the children decide what to do and how to do it. That’s teamwork, literally. The little kids desperately want to be like the bigger kids, so instead of bawling when they strike out during a sandlot baseball game, they work hard to hold themselves together. This is the foundation of maturity.
The older kids, meanwhile, throw the ball more softly to the younger ones. They’re learning empathy. And if someone yells, “Let’s play on just one leg!”–something they couldn’t do at Little League, with championships (and trophies!) on the line–the kids discover what it means to come up with and try out a different way of doing things. In Silicon Valley terms, they “pivot” and adopt a “new business model.” They also learn that they, not just grown-ups, can collectively remake the rules to suit their needs. That’s called participatory democracy.
Best of all, without adults intervening, the kids have to do all the problem solving for themselves, from deciding what game to play to making sure the teams are roughly equal. Then, when there’s an argument, they have to resolve it themselves. That’s a tough skill to learn, but the drive to continue playing motivates them to work things out. To get back to having fun, they first have to come up with a solution, so they do. This teaches them that they can disagree, hash it out, and–perhaps with some grumbling–move on.
These are the very skills that are suddenly in short supply on college campuses (and in the workplace according to many employers).
No Fun and No Joy
When parents curtail their kids’ independence, they’re not just depriving the yhounlings of childhood fun. They are denying themselves the town-up joy of seeing their kids do something smart, brave, or kind without parental guidance.
It’s the kind of joy described by a Washington Post columnist who answered the phone one day and was shocked to find her 8-year old son on the other end. He’d accidentally gone home when he was supposed to stay after school. Realizing she wasn’t there, he decided to walk to the store a few blocks away–his first time. The mom raced over, fearing God knows what, and rushed in only to find her son happily helping the shopkeeper stock the shelves with meat. He’d had a snack and done homework, too. It was an afternoon he’d never forget, and neither would his very proud mother.
When we don’t let our kids do anything on their own, we don’t get to see just how competent they can be–and isn’t that, ultimately, the greatest reward of parenting? We need to make it easier for grown-ups to let go while living in a society that keeps warning them not to. And we need to make sure they won’t get arrested for it.
Next week read the closure to this article and what we can do to help our children be more resilient.