Yesterday I stood in the gym of a local elementary school to watch my 10 year old daughter play volleyball. Both teams were made up 5th and 6th grade girls who are in their infancy when it comes to playing volleyball. As a result, anyone one that could serve the ball over the net was 95% guaranteed they would win the point. There were the occasional returns and even one rally that consisted of the ball going over the net 3 times before hitting the floor.
As a sports enthusiast it was painful. As a parent, it was exciting.
The gym was pretty much full of parents, grandparents and brothers and sisters crowded around the perimeter of the gymnasium. What struck me was the unbridled joy and encouragement for both teams and the cheers with every effort put forth. It kind of gives that warm fuzzy feeling inside, not often associated with sports. Parents and children well behaved and excited to be learning a new sport.
So I’m back to thinking about stages. I can’t say for sure but I’m doubtful any kids were left off the team because a parent didn’t want them performing in front of others. Even the girls who couldn’t serve the ball more than 10 feet were cheered for their efforts. It was clear to everyone in the building that this was a place of learning, a place for social interaction and fun. We will watch with amazement to see improvements with the next game and cheer even more loudly.
Why is it so hard for people to allow this to take place with learning? The mystery that occurs because work is suddenly displayed on a screen, accessible to the world makes people nuts sometimes. Even if the local TV station wanted to show this game, I can’t see any parent opting out. They might even want to have names sewn on the back of the jerseys (okay they are only t-shirts but still).
The sad part is that as a parent of 4 children, 2 of whom have graduated from high school, I knew way more about the sports and extra-curricular part of their school life than the academics. There was almost no way for me to interact or watch them learn other than the occasional homework assignment or parent teacher interview. The emphasis on most schools places extra-curricular at a way higher profile than the academics. Grant it, those are choices students can make. But shouldn’t we be working to a place where the day to day work and learning is showcased, celebrated and elevated to a higher place?
I recognize that with classroom work, the students don’t have much choice but by starting young and creating a culture where we share our work and seek encouragement and feedback I have to believe that is going to make for more engagment students producing better quality work.
I’m probably not done thinking about stages, I’ll just warn you right now.