Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wwah for Whale

* DISCLAIMER -  I'm anti adult-craft ... It is so ingrained in my philosophy. It's how I teach, how I work. I use open ended materials and quality resources and I just let the children go ... I throw them ideas here and there - but for the most part, I set up art*full provocations and I let them create. Please do not feel the need to try and convince me that adult directed craft is a valuable approach to teaching children. You're entitled to your opinion, as am I. Here's mine: 

I was doing relief teaching at an old-school pre-school the other day and I really did not feel connected with that space. Like not one bit. It was ok to look at. And it was ok to spend some time ... but as the day progressed and I watched the children being “guided” to do their craft work for the day I started to feel a bit icky. It was all adult-directed. There was a sample of what the craft should look like. The painting experience was packed away. Children’s painting's were whisked away. Children painting whatever they wanted was seen as a pointless activity. The craft was seen to be where the real learning occurred. The staff were pressured by the manager of the service to ensure that each child did their craft for the day, morning and afternoon.

Their portfolios were full of them. All the same. A is for apple. B is for ball. C is for cat. All the same. Every craft element in those books were cut by adults. All the children had to do was stick them down in the same way the adult did in the sample. They were all the same. I did not see the child in their portfolios. I could not read their personalities, interests, likes and dislikes, their challenges and their strengths and achievements. I could not see them. All I could see was “Wwah is for Whale”.

I was placed in charge of the craft for the afternoon session. I hated it. It rubbed me the wrong way. I was upset by this for days. I’m still upset. I saw a little boy who was not ‘craft-inclined’ made to sit and produce a product. I saw another boy look at me apprehensively asking me what he should do ...

I was a brat and I told him he could do whatever he wanted...

I am sure I rocked the boat and upset the apple cart both at the same time.

He was so apprehensive ... He didn’t want to not follow the status quo of the service ... He didn’t want to get it wrong. Which makes you wonder ... When I’m not there – what happens? What happens when you don’t create the required craft item using the adult sample as the guide? What happens if you say no? What happens if for the little life of you, you can’t understand what is expected? Does the adult then do it for you? What’s the point of that? Do you get ‘spoken to’ in front of your peers at the table? What happens then? How are you made to feel?

The pre-planned adult structured craft really got to me. It was all the same. Cookie-cutter. In my own eyes pointless. Products which are results driven, given to parents to suggest that this is the learning the children are doing ... It’s learning because we put a letter of the alphabet on it!

This service is teaching children that their own work – their own paintings aren’t good enough. That they’re not able to learn themselves through a play-based curriculum. That they cannot resource themselves with their own ideas with open ended materials. That they aren’t good enough as people...

I feel for those little souls.

I hated it.

I really, really really REALLY hated it.

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