I have been teaching for over 18 years at the university level. This year, with the vast shortage of elementary grade teachers, I decided to help out. This is what began my time as a first-grade teacher. A post COVID classroom experience is one you have to experience to truly understand. Some children learned the art of self-teaching and are far above their peers. Others are struggling with the very foundation of reading and math skills. The challenge for teachers (assuming other teachers are experiencing the same thing as I) is how to manage the growth for all students when there is such a wide range of learning readiness. Teachers also have a shortage of teacher support. Parents do what they can, while constrained school budgets limit the availability of in-class teacher assistants.
Imagine teaching 21 seven-year-old students who have different abilities to sit in their seats. Each with so much to say that waiting to be called upon is more than they can manage! Add a curriculum that only affords 20 minutes of recess (Lord help us all when the weather calls for indoor recess) and 20 minutes for lunch. Arrivals start at 8:00 am and dismissal at 2:15 pm. I joke that I can’t get my college-age students to sit that long! Teachers have to be quite skilled to integrate active learning and “brain-breaks”. Not to mention the bathroom rotations of the entire class three times a day!
But what I learned from this experience, so far, is that boys are still boys and girls are still girls. Give the class of boys and girls a piece of paper and markers and boys will make airplanes, while girls draw and color. Not that girls don’t like to fly an airplane or boys to draw and color, but they seemingly play just as their ancestors have for generations.
When making their holiday wish lists, girls still asked for dolls and boys for toy guns. This along side of requests for technology toys. I was taken aback. All the media talks about are how children of today’s technology are different, but what I witnessed was that children today are just like children of years gone by. They have more options for things to play with, but simple things such as paper, markers, dolls, and toy guns are still as relevant as ever. Perhaps, we should stop pushing our assumptions on the children of today. Instead, let’s find the joy in just watching them play and then facilitate that play to help them explore their imaginations.