It’s the title bout of the century. Which matters more, the end product or the journey taken to get to it? Over my teaching career, I’ve seen teachers fall squarely into both camps. When you work with the little ones, it’s even more of an issue… small hands often struggle with tracing, cutting, gluing, and coloring… how important is it for the art project your sprout brings home look perfect?
When I made the leap to kindergarten (let’s be clear, it was a leap!), I was always enamored by the art projects, crafts, and work I saw in the hallways… thing is, many times, it all looked a little too perfect to me. Hey, what did I know, maybe kindergartners were amazingly gifted… thing is, most of them aren’t going to be the next Picasso… and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
What I began to realize (with many thanks to Mrs. D. for the numerous discussions on the very topic), is that it’s way more important the work be THEIR work than quality work. When little Sandy brings home her picture made of cut out pieces of paper, it actually should look like a five-year-old made it because, you know, she’s five years old!
Doesn’t it mean more to a child to have their work be authentic rather than have it be something made of precut, pre-made, pre-colored, pre-everything pieces she only put together with help from an adult? What’s the fun in that? That’s not her work, that’s just a prefabricated mishmash of something she assembled with help from a grownup.
Yesterday, as part of our Arctic Unit, we made igloos… out of sugar cubes. Yes, I fibbed a little and told the class if they ate a sugar cube they would get ‘really sick’ – because an entire class of kids hopped up on sugar cubes wasn’t in my best interest. Oh, and yes, when nobody was looking, I popped a sugar cube into my own mouth… an no, nobody saw me.
In any event, the children worked in groups, which is always very telling about their personalities… they had to plan their igloos with the cubes first and then, when we saw there was some assemblance of a structure, they could use glue to put it all together… that was about all the instruction they received. As I walked around, I was tempted to but in, help out, and in some cases, take over, but I didn’t. There were some frustrated sprouts, some pouts, and even a few tears, but you know what? There were also some big smiles, amazing cooperation, and celebratory cheers.
Did they all look brilliant? Not even close… a few didn’t even resemble igloos, but the point is, it was their work, their failure, or their triumph.
One of the most important lessons my sprouts can learn is how to take risks and appreciate their learning. My job is to guide them along the journey with clues and support, but not to provide all the pieces and answers.