Children learn so many things inside their homes. They will learn about love, about sharing, and about the giving of gifts without strings attached. Yet even if you a child grew up in a warm and caring home there is still the possibility that he or she will have to deal with rejection and other growing pains. This is because the children are expected to go to school.
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And it is in that environment where they can learn to pickup the negative aspects of life. It is in the school when a child will have to learn the hard way that not everyone will have to share what they have and they are not obliged to be kind.
One of the most life altering expressions they can hear is this: “You can’t play with us.” If kindergarten students are no allowed to say it then there is a chance that classrooms and school playgrounds can be transformed into productive learning environments and not a place of dread because students can experience the sting of rejection.
Vivian Paley’s observation is an eye opener for a future teacher like me. No one would have understood the complex relationships and student interaction that exist within the campus, classrooms, and playgrounds without her observations put down in writing. No one would have thought that a hierarchy system is being constructed every time the popular students and the not so popular students get together to play.
There are those who assume leadership roles on the basis of their physical appearance and other attributes and they are the ones who get to say if a particular student is allowed entry into their inner-circle so to speak.
By strictly enforcing the rue: “You can’t say you can’t play”, the teachers will hope to create a counter-culture that will nip in the bud whatever is being created right under their noses. But in order for this system to work this policy must be enforced at the earliest possible stage such as in nursery or in kindergarten. This will train a little child in the way that he or she should behave in class and most especially during play time.
It will also make them aware that by creating exclusionary zones they limit interaction with other children. The teachers will have to explain to them that they have the tendency to make decisions based on initial impressions and most of the time this is wrong.
The teachers will have to make them understand that if they allow everyone to become a part of their lives then they will be surprised and pleased with what they are going to learn and experience.
This may be easier said than done and therefore the teachers will have to be patient in enforcing this new policy. There must be constant reminders and encouragement. Children will have to be educated that it is part of good manners especially at such a young age to get to know everyone.
They have to be told that each one is unique and each one can bring something unique to their learning experience. But they will never know if they keep on saying “you can’t play” to a particular student.
This rule will help reduce the feeling of rejection in the classroom and minimize the possibility of lowering the self-esteem of some students. On the other hand those who have the tendency to be discriminatory will learn to change their behavior.
They will also learn at the very young age that they miss learning opportunities by being selective with their friends. It is also a good way to teach them democratic values such as the idea that everyone has the right to live and enjoy a shared space such as a classroom.