Thursday, January 24, 2008


The Caterpillar of Kindness and Compassion

I play volleyball on Wednesday evenings, in the gym at a local elementary school (K thru 5). Sometimes, during breaks between games, I take a walk around the (small) school, and this post is about some things noted in the gym and around the school.

The walls of the gym used to, in years past, be papered with “inspirational” posters, the kind that tell kids they should always do their best, that they should treat their classmates well, and that sort of thing. Only a few remain now, and that seems much better — it was a bit excessive before. But one of the posters, now gone, always puzzled me: it depicted Snoopy, the dog from the Peanuts comic strip, attempting to fly off the roof of his dog house using oak leaves as wings. And it said, “Never say you can’t until you try.”

It seemed to me that the message lacked some sense of ensuring that one’s goals be reasonable, feasible, physically possible. I mean, do we really want kindergarten kids thinking that they should try to fly using oak leaves, before deciding that they can’t?


One thing that’s on the gym wall now is a computer-printed sheet that lists “Conflict resolution methods.” There are three listed. The first is “Walk”. There’s no explanation, so I have to guess, but I presume that means to walk away from a conflict, or perhaps to take a walk to cool down, before invoking the rest of the list. The second is “Talk”, always the best way to try to resolve things.

The third, which I found amusing as being the only remaining option, is “Use ‘rock, paper, scissors’.” A nice goal, but I recall having as many arguments over “rock, paper, scissors” as over anything else, when I was that age.


Each classroom door has on it the name of the teacher who uses that room (or teachers; a few have two). There are perhaps 40 teachers in the school, give or take. Every one of them is a woman — the titles are all “Mrs” or “Ms”. There is not one male teacher in that school. Not one. I wonder: what is the percentage, overall, of female teachers at the elementary levels?


Posted in the gym is a list of months, with themes for each — each month has a social attribute as its focus. December’s was “Kindness and Compassion”, and in one of the hallways is a display of a student project using that theme: The Caterpillar of Kindness and Compassion. Said caterpillar, made of paper circles, has a head and a tail, and many body segments in between. Each body segment has written on it one student’s contribution, something that suggests how people can show kindness and compassion to others.

I like the Caterpillar of Kindness and Compassion.


January’s theme is “Cooperation and Teamwork”, a fitting theme as we use the gym for our volleyball games.


Ray said...

There is not one male teacher in that school. Not one.

I guess we were lucky. Our older son had a male teacher in elementary school, who was far and away the best (and nicest) of all his teachers. It was a sad day when he retired, but the wonderful thing is that he still keeps in touch with us, sending my wife a birthday card and the family a Christmas card every year, without fail.

He was not the only male teacher at that school, and the principal was also male. However, there was definitely a preponderance of female teachers, and this was over fifteen years ago, so perhaps things have changed since then.

Maggie said...

My oldest daughter had three male teachers in fifth grade, but it was all female teachers until then. My youngest has only one of those male teachers now, for math, and otherwise has had all female. (Except for P.E., the P.E. teachers are male.) In middle school there are more male teachers, my oldest has had one on her "team" for both sixth and seventh grade, but still all the rest are female (except the home tech/shop teacher). I guess teaching just isn't a profession that interests men. It doesn't pay very well and since women are usually the ones to stay home with the kids, it's an attractive job for women who can be in school basically at the same time as their children.

But I don't know why men don't go into teaching, maybe working with children doesn't really appeal to them. Perhaps they'd rather focus on a subject and aren't interested in general education at the lower levels.

My daughter's school also participates in a "word of the week" sort of thing. It reminds me a lot of what we do in Girl Scouts -- several badges and activities (the signs) focus on living the Girl Scout "law," which is the values of scouting.

Finally, I agree -- I hate this idea that you can do anything if you try hard enough. It's nonsense. Maybe it's just much harder to put "assess your ability and resources and realistically set goals" on a poster. I'd say it ties in with the stupid "self-esteem" movement, but I think it predates the self-esteem movement, and they're both crap. (And I can't picture Snoopy trying to fly with oak leaves, either. I don't like Snoopy being used that way. Snoopy *could* fly by using his ears as propellers. :-P )

The Ridger, FCD said...

Yes. "You can do anything you want to" - meant to be affirming of opportunity, I suppose, but it's not true. And if kids believe it, it leads to all this "it's not fair" and "why are you failing me????"