I read an article months ago about kids of my generation and younger growing up faster than older generations. I wish I had saved the article, or even just remembered what site I found it on, because of course now I cannot cite it or even check its reliability. The topic really stuck with me, because I remember thinking about its links to education. If this is really true, then as a future educator I need to consider that every year I will be meeting a new group of kids who are at a completely different stage in their learning than the last.
This article talked about all the different tools my generation had at our fingertips when we were just tiny kids. While my mother and father were given plastic rattles and stuffed bunnies, I had few toys that didn’t sing or read to me. My parents did wooden puzzles and I played LeapFrog. Now when you go to church on Sunday morning or have to sit in a doctor’s office waiting room you are surrounded by kids holding iPads and tablets and their parents’ cell phones. This is not a rant about the rotten technology age, so those of you considering closing the tab, bear with me. I think it is great that we have these tools, and if you haven’t taken the time to play on some of these educational apps, you’ll be amazed, but I’m a little concerned about society’s expectations of kids.
Change is good, change is necessary, and change is inevitable. If you aren’t moving forward, you’re standing still, right? I, Taylor Trimble, agree that parenting has to change from generation to generation. I also agree that society should expect more and more from the world and push our young people to think bigger and be better, but I am having so much trouble agreeing that kids need to learn more quickly, think like adults, and mature faster. What valuable skills will kids miss out on? If we continue to supply kids with tools that eliminate the need for them to be creative and innovative, aren’t we skipping some valuable steps in their development?
I read another article recently (which of course I didn’t save, write down, or bother to check the authenticity of) which was talking about how moms spend so much time planning games, crafts, and activities for their kids, that those children never have to entertain themselves. I couldn’t help but agree that this age of “super-moms” often take all the thinking and learning opportunities away from their children by planning out their every second. I remember spending many summers with chores lists, money to go swimming, and nothing else but free hours to create my own worlds full of make-believe. I’ve been a teacher for as long as I can remember, as my favorite toys included school desks and super old text books. I may not have been working on science, math, or writing in my 3 months at home, but I was definitely working on my creativity, collaboration skills (my sister and I fought a lot), and problem solving. After all, when you only have a reading textbook and and one crummy box of flashcards, you’ve got to get creative on how to teach all the other subjects.
The other day I was sitting in on the first graders in TAG class, and the teacher asked this question: “There are 20 birds in a tree, and a hunter shoots one. How many birds are left in the tree?” Immediately one little boy said, “None, they all flew away.” And here I was thinking 19. Kids think about the world so much differently than the rest of us, and that’s not a bad thing. Why do we want them to think like us, anyway? If all the kids in the world are taught to think like the adults in the world, then when those kids are adults, what’s our world going to look like? The same. Change is necessary, remember?
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t have any suggestions or a perfectly laid out tactical plan for promoting more creativity in kids. I will, however, say that I think it’s important that we all recognize that kids are growing up faster than they used to, and we’re pushing them to become the same kind of people that we already are. Again, I don’t think growing up faster is a bad thing, but I am beginning to get concerned about what’s being left out on this quick road to adulthood. Maybe I need to accept that kids are just going to keep growing up this way, or maybe I have a good point. Who knows? The important thing here is that we have these conversations, because if we don’t see a variety of perspectives then we aren’t going anywhere. I challenge you to recognize your role in a child’s life. Are you teaching them to use their minds, or are you showing them how to think like you? Are you facilitating their ideas or leading them through each step of the process? We need to let kids act, think, and grow like kids and not like adults so that as they get older they continue to think outside the box.
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