Play mimics life; does school?

I recently spent an afternoon with my 3 year old nephew. For over 20 minutes we played a scenario that he created. We were driving two mini monster trucks around the living room where he directed an entire storyline. Our monster trucks left their house in the morning and had to go get money. Then, and only because I said I was hungry, he agreed that our trucks could stop for tacos, though this wasn’t part of his original story. After my distraction our trucks had to go to a barber named Tony. At first, the barber wasn’t opened, so I had to knock on the door and then he was open. Our trucks got some hair cuts and then earned a lollipop, and headed home. When my cousin came home (who is the mother of my “nephew”) I told her about this storyline that her child invented and happily played over and over and over again. She told me that her husband had taken their son to a barber shop just this week. They had to get money because the barber only took cash, and the first time they went the barbershop had been closed. And he had gotten a lollipop from the barber. It amazed us both that this 3 year old could remember all of these events and retell them as a fun adventure for some trucks days later.

We know that young children are parrots who repeat everything they hear. They also mimic what they see. This made me think not just of very young children, but of students of all ages. What language do they hear being spoken to them and around them in schools every day? What activities do they participate in regularly and what would those activities look like if our students took them home and mimicked them in their own play? What rules do we set in schools and how do those translate?

I hope that when my nephew starts his K-12 education he:

  • is surrounded by positive, affirming language. Language that, when he repeats it, honors all people and diverse ways of thinking.
  • is provided many opportunities to learn through exploration. I hope that all of his learning isn’t rote memorization, or the following of strict step-by-step directions to complete every small task.
  • is asked to think, to create, and to ask his own questions. I hope his curiosity is sparked daily!
  • is loved and appreciated for the strengths he has as a human and as a learner.
  • is supported to reflect on the ways in which he can continue to improve and learn more.
  • is free to try new things and make mistakes and happily learn from those mistakes.
  • loves learning and loves reading as much as his Tia does!

My wishes for my nephew’s future schooling are the same for all of the students in our schools today. I believe we have more work to do in some of these areas, but I appreciate the amazing educators I am honored to work with every day and know we are moving in the right direction.

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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