My 7-year-old daughter came home from school last week and told me that her class started clubs at recess. My first thought was “uh oh” and I immediately asked her if her teacher knew about these clubs because it definitely sounded like something that would be shut down by the teacher. I had all these visions of cliques and hurt feelings. Her teacher did not know about the clubs. So I started asking my daughter about these clubs and at the end of the conversation, I decided that maybe these clubs weren’t such a bad idea after all.
These were clubs based on interest. There was a Pokemon club and a Fairy club, and my daughter decided to start a Rock Star Princess club. No one was in any way excluded from any club and you could join as many clubs as you liked. Some girls decided to join all the clubs including the Pokemon club, although no boys had yet decided to join the Fairy or Rock Star Princess clubs. My daughter was even considering joining the Pokemon club despite knowing nothing about Pokemon, so she could learn about Pokemon. So far this all sounds great to me. The kids decided on their own to organize something. No exclusions. Getting together to talk about similar interests and maybe even teaching each other about their interests.
Then I think it gets even better. My daughter is really excited about starting this club. After she does her homework, she sits down and organizes a list of 20 activities for her Princess Rock Star club to do during recess. They include discussion topics about fashion and music, crafts like making crowns and microphones, and fun stuff like making up songs and dances. I think this is great – leadership skills! Creativity!
So now instead of cliques and hurt feelings, I have a vision of these kids organizing activities for each other at recess. Putting thought and effort into something constructive completely on their own initiative. Talking about the things that interest them and learning more about the things that interest their classmates.
So my daughter takes her list to school the next day all excited to get started. And I think this is great. She is feeling great and confident about being a leader and organizing something on her own. And she comes home from school that day … “My teacher said no clubs.”
I can’t help but wonder if her teacher asked the kids about the clubs or really took a look at what they were doing. Because if she did, I don’t know how she could shut it down and discourage it. I could see her being concerned that it could take a turn for the worse at some point, but that just takes a little monitoring and setting of ground rules. As long as no one is being excluded and everyone is being nice and respectful to each other…
My daughter says her teacher didn’t talk to them about the clubs, she just said “no clubs.”
I feel like it could have been a great teaching opportunity. Leadership skills. Working in a group. Organization. Creativity. And yes, maybe some real life conflict resolution skills at some point. These kids were doing something constructive on their own. Trying to use all these real-life skills in a setting where they could be taught to use them properly. And it was shut down.
I feel like in school, we are teaching our kids simply to fall in line instead of how to make good decisions and express themselves in acceptable ways. It is possible to teach kids how to express themselves within the rules and guidelines instead of just shutting the expression down for fear of where it might go. The problem is that would take time, thought, and effort on the part of educators and administration. It’s much easier to just say “these are the rules, follow them, that’s it.” And then the second most of these kids step out into the real world where no one is looking over their shoulders to make them just fall in line, they don’t know what to do with themselves. This is when they fail, they get lost, they get into trouble. They haven’t been taught how to make good decisions on their own and how to express themselves and resolve conflicts in acceptable ways.
Yes, parents should be doing this. But the fact is that our kids spend a lot of their time at school. And that is where these opportunities to teach all these important real-life skills in a social group setting present themselves every day. And I feel like this was a great opportunity to do that and it was lost. Because it’s not part of the curriculum. Because it would take effort outside of “sit down, do the work, and follow the rules.”
We can tell our kids to respect each other. We can tell our kids to work together. We can threaten them with discipline if they don’t. But…how about we actually teach them how to do those things? Especially when they present such great opportunities for us to do so.
Would there have been problems with these clubs at some point? Probably. They’re kids. They need to learn. So you teach them. You say, “hey, let’s figure out how to make this work if it’s something you all want to do.” Instead it’s, “go run around the playground and don’t think too much.”
Were they just “silly” clubs? Yes. But that’s not the point. It’s all the skills and experience that could have been gained by the forming, leading, and organizing of these silly clubs that is the loss. It is the experience of taking your very own idea and working as a group to see it through and make it work that is missed here. “If you want to have these clubs, you need to make sure they work.” I wince at the thought of all the responsibility and accountability that could have been taught but won’t be.
Do I blame my daughter’s teacher? Not as much as I blame the system. I think it’s the rare teacher that would have embraced this as a learning opportunity and helped the kids see it through. But that’s because the teachers are working in the same system the kids are learning in. Come in, do what you’re told, teach the curriculum, earn your tenure, keep your job. And so it goes. Reading, writing, math and science are part of the curriculum. All those other things that would have been learned here and are so important in the real world, are not.
Am I thinking about this too much? Maybe. All I know is that my daughter walked out the door that day excited about what she and her classmates were organizing together. She walked out the door feeling like a confident leader ready to see this idea through and make it great in her own 7-year-old way. She came home hearing “no.” No discussion. No explanation. No opportunity. Just no. In my opinion, that’s no way to educate our children and definitely no way to prepare them to lead us in the future.
It’s not about Pokemon, Fairies and Rock Star Princesses. It’s about educating and encouraging our kids to work together, create, and lead with confidence for the future…both theirs and ours.