Sitting in class today and break time rolls around. I have a little roster system set up where, on rotation, three children accompany me to my house to collect the resources for the next planned lesson. Today a little one asked who’s coming today. I explained that today it would be nobody, as we didn’t need anything extra for class. This was his reaction:
‘Me I don’t like you Aunty Sarah (pronounced Salah in his little Kikuyu accent), you don’t bring new things.’
This was the first day in 2 months in which I hadn’t brought anything ‘new’ down to class with me. And judging by the reaction I got from my miniature scholars, this was quite the sin. Suddenly I was worried, am I creating a new breed of spoilt Kenyan orphans? And, if so, how will they cope with normal life when I suddenly disapear with all my resources?
I wouldn’t usually think of what I bring to class as excessive. In comparison with the masses of things we have on hand at home, we’re talking a seriously threadbare classroom. We have the basics; story books, coloured pencils and crayons, jigsaws, writing books and now and then when I feel a surge of creative enthusiasm, I make playdough or finger paint. And, everything we use in class is recommended or suggested in the Kenyan early childhood curriculum.
But, it’s more than I see in most schools, and more than I see even in the other classrooms in our own school. This is in part because as you grow up and progress through the school system, there is (unfortunately!) less need for playdough and story books. But it’s also an access thing, the curriculum calls for modelling clay. We don’t have that. Solutions in my mind; buy some, make some, use clay dirt. The first two options are off the cards for most Kenyan teachers, who wants to spend their own hard earned cash on their class?
And now I’ve hit a bit of a conundrum with it all; should I ease off on the exciting parts of class? Am I setting my little ones up for bitter disappointment at what’s coming for them in the schooling system? The whole concept of early childhood, for me, is to get kids excited and enthusiastic about learning.
I suppose when we were young, we looked up at the big kids using compass sets and reading fat textbooks, just the same as my wee class do now. I don’t remember once thinking, oh man that looks dull. I remember being excited at the concept of owning my own mathematical drawing set. Then again, I am and was, a nerd.
The fact of the matter is, of course I’m not going to stop making class fun. That’s the whole reason I do what I do. To make learning fun. To try and help morph out a new generation of nerds to keep our breed going. Or, if they’re that way inclined, jocks, or whatever it is they’re passionate about in life. But preferably nerds.
I suppose I just have to help my little ones to see that exciting resources is the backbone of kindergarten class, and that when we run out of new things to do, it’s not the end of the world. Nobody likes being lumped suddenly into the hate category simply for not having a new picture book after all!