Education doesn't happen only through books and lectures.
I recently got a call from a man who was one of my fifth-grade students about six decades ago in New York. We talked for an hour. He remembered many specific events and activities from that long-ago experience.
I barely recalled his favorite memory from our study of cold and warm fronts in our weather unit. After we read the chapter and answered the questions, he reminded me, “You divided our class into two sections: the cold-front kids and the warm-front kids. The cold-front molecules are heavy and move slowly, so we had this heavy bent-forward movement, and you had weird, sort of threatening, music for us to move to. The warm-front kids were light, bouncy molecules moving to cheery bouncy music. You kept the music and movement dialogue going between the heavy cold-front group and the flighty warm-front gang. The cold-front molecules, of course, overwhelmed the flighty warm front, and that was the weather report.”
Then he told me, “Mimi, to this day, when I read the paper and see a cold front coming, I instinctively bend forward in our fifth-grade choreography!”
What do you remember of your years in school? Is it the exams? The pop quizzes? The formal academic lessons? Or is it the shoebox diorama you created depicting a favorite part of a beloved book that you read and reported on? My husband, Howard, long remembered his “flying monkeys” scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” For him, it was a special memory of an unforgettable classroom time.
My little brown-and-white dog puppet, Snowball, has been with me for 35 years. He always tries to accomplish the same simple peekaboo trick, but goofs it up because he just doesn’t pay attention. Snowball has had thousands of children in hysterics and lecturing, “Snowball, PAY ATTENTION!”
Snowball’s time with my classes and programs is minimal. He appears in the last few minutes of our sessions. Kids who don’t pay attention identify with him. They get the point. Snowball has encouraged, sympathized and celebrated with children through numerous social, classroom management and emotional issues. Recently, while I was standing in line at the post office, a very tall man tapped me on the shoulder. “Are you Mimi?” he asked. He was in one of my early childhood classes about 30 years ago. With a laugh, he bent over and asked, “Does Snowball know the peekaboo trick yet?”
As we start a new school year, please encourage our teachers to make time for creative and delightful ways to reach students. Support their original and joyful activities. Appreciate the power of learning with texts, with lessons, with lectures, but also through drama, humor, music, story, dance and all aspects of creative expression. In the midst of all of the pressures and stressful requirements put upon our teachers, they need you to support the joy of it all.
“Mamaloshen” is the Yiddish term for “the mother tongue” and we have adapted it here to represent the wisdom of Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, who is on a mission to help parents raise happy, healthy, creative children.