Numbers. The children line up to go downstairs to the gross motor room. The concept of lines is a strange phenomenon. I question asking children to line up and to be quiet and to stay in order. There are some hierarchical concerns with this element of teaching. For a while, I was calling the first person the “line leader” and then this became an elitist position where different students wanted to be it and developed a kind of weird superiority from it. So, then I started giving them ordinal numbers. Using the line to teach “first” and “second” and “third.” Placing the same importance on being “sixth” as being “first.” Now, I have been counting in French. I hand the child a French number and say it and then they walk with it down the hall and down the stairs to the gross motor room and give it back to me, ideally, saying the number back. I am super impressed by the ones who remember. One student not only remembered hers, “neuf” but also the person behind her “dix.” I was like, wow, despite the radio, the news, and our current political climate, the future is bright.
The kids are incredibly funny about French. There are some definite number favorites: “quatre” (pronounced like “cat”) and “huit” (pronounced like a breathy “wheat”). At first I was like, these kids are three years old, there is no way they are going to remember this number. But, then, I think about Dr. Montessori’s theory of kids 3-6 being the sponges for all kinds of learning (i.e. her book “The Absorbent Mind”). Dr. Montessori takes a constructionist approach to learning. These kiddos aren’t blank slates that we need to fill up with our adult knowledge (wrong wrong Monseiur John Locke). Like teachers are not some kind of God in the classroom who has all the wisdom. No, instead, the environment itself is the teacher. The experience is the teacher. The feel of the number in the hand, the experiencing of being “8” and saying “huit” is the teacher.
Yeah, so, that’s cool.
Okay, here are some funny things:
- I eat lunch with the students, sitting in a very small chair at a very small table. We have incredibly cool and bizarre conversations. Sometimes it’s sort of like being with your stoner friends who are like “my sister said in a 100 years the earth is going to explode.” And me saying, “No, that can’t be true. Think of how long the earth has existed.” Kiddo: “No, it is true. She said it. She knows it.” Or another kid saying, “There are only 200 Indians left.” And another student saying, “No. You don’t even know. You aren’t an Indian.” And then that student saying, “Yes, I am. My skin is growing brown.” I find this kid’s comments super strange and fascinating.
a. did he mean people from India or indigenous persons? b. I think he meant indigenous person so he was conscious of genocide and land expansion/conquering/colonialism but in a kind of simplified way–like almost like the way we understand extinct animals, which is obviously problematic in the comparison between people and animals, but in another way, shows a large amount of empathy for people who are not him. he said this in a way where he was very concerned about this number. Although also it kind of treats indigenous persons as a mythical past, which is a way that a lot of narratives treat indians tribes. c. is this kid aware of his own race? do they think about skin color? I want to explore this further. Also, race in France is treated totally different than America. In my limited understanding, in France, it would be bizarre to separate by race, instead people are encouraged to view everyone as part of the “human race.” In America, I think we are encouraged to view our own race and other races as fundamentally part of our identity and our experience of the world. Colorblindness is treated as quite racist. I’m curious how different kids in different parts of the world think about this.
- Sometimes their conversations are very stoner-ish because they are literally constructing knowledge, and are talking to synthesize the weird bits into something coherent, like one student was telling me,”It’s like we could make like a line that would like go like up into the sky and then like round and round and then like it would dart back.” And I’m just kind of nodding, like, yeah that is what a shape is.
- I use the phrase “avec plasir” when I open their containers of yogurt or capri-sun drinks (who designed capri-sun drinks? this is like the worst design ever). But, so I said “avec plasir” “with pleasure” to one of my students and he looked at me and in his Russian accent said “I EAT PLEASURE!” and then started laughing and I started laughing. I like kid jokes. A lot of time they don’t make sense and that’s exactly the type of joke I like
- One of my students loves the movie Moana. Okay, so, it’s Disney and totally not Montessori and there is a large amount of cultural appropriation in that movie, but she was telling me about it, so then I watched it. Then my student told me she had a Moana necklace and I was like, “Wow, did it have the rock from the island in it?” (this is what the movie’s story centers on) and she’s like, “No. No. It doesn’t have a rock. It’s from my dentist.” Oh mon dieu, that cracked me up. Also, I know a lot about this child’s dentist because she told me one day that her dentist told her that cheese has two kind of bacteria. Two kinds! She’s a genius, for sure, but also like, if you’re a dentist, know that your kid patients are really thinking about what you are telling them. And also, smart idea to have Moana necklaces in your dental office.