Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Movement Matters: A Kindergarten Memory

by John T. Spencer

I have a kindergarten memory that I carry around with me, reminding me why students sometimes wander - both physically and philosophically.

Station time begins and I'm lost in the chaos and the movement and the sense that everybody but me knows where to go. It's not that I wasn't listening. It's that I didn't find the directions important. I listened when she read the story. I paid close attention to the explanation of patterns. I thought I listened when she gave directions, but then, I don't know, they slipped away somehow.

I wander toward the window and stare at the hallway.

"What are you doing right now?" the teacher gently asks.

"I'm looking out the window," I tell her without the slightest bit of eye contact.

"What are you looking at?" she asks.

"I'm looking at the orange-haired boy . . ."

"Red-haired?" she asks.

"Nuh huh, it's orange. Take a look," I point.

"Why are you looking at him?" she asks.

"Because he has no idea what's going to happen to him. Soon he'll be in kindgergarten and then it's going to be forever when he finishes school and then right when he finishes it, he's going to have to go to college. Then some day he'll sit down at a desk and won't be allowed to leave that either.  It's like it never stops," I say.

"I thought you liked this class," she says with a pained expression on her face.

"I do. School is fun. But I wish I could run out there and tell him to enjoy the freedom. I'd tell him to get out of the stroller and run around, because pretty soon he'll be told where to sit. I would tell him to play while he has the chance," I say.

It's not as if I love learning and hate school. It's just that I recognize, in this moment, that school is a broken gift.

I sigh, turn around and find my way to my station with the low group. We're not supposed to know that we're the low group. After all, we're the tigers. But if we are the tigers, we're either defanged or in a zoo, yearning for a chance to be wild.

John T. Spencer is a teacher in Phoenix, AZ who blogs at  He recently finished two books, Pencil Me In, an allegory for educational technology and Drawn Into Danger, a fictional memoir of a superhero (that you can download on Kindle for $1.00.  Seriously, a buck. That can't even buy you a decent cup of coffee)


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