Teaching a New Generation
Annie has seen quite a few careers in her life: after singing, acting, and reporting, she finally settled on teaching preschoolers in a Montessori school. But now, she’s thinking long and hard about this decision.
“I love the wonder of children”, she tells me, “I was in wonder and awe of the universe, and I wanted to share it with the children because I could resonate with them on that level.” Annie went into teaching ten years ago, after spending two years in Montessori training. Montessori schools are focused on following the child, and letting them develop on their own. The classroom is full of sensory experiences: bowls of colorful beads line the shelves for counting and spilling– to then clean up– and in the corner there’s a rock-washing job. Pop outside, and a log awaits for hammering. When the kids are here, the well-lit, child-sized room comes to life. “Miss Annie, miss Annie!” The kids wander around, picking out work to complete on tables or rugs, which they roll out in the center of the classroom. Annie and her assistant help out whenever it’s needed: resolving conflicts, answering questions, and instructing the kids in small lessons in the middle.
A school, however, is not only made of the kids. Over time, other things can happen, like the staff or the principal changing. “It takes the love out of things,” she tells me. There’s another problem that’s burning her out. “There’s a generation of parents right now that are crazy, and their children are very stressed out.” The parents work too much. Some of the kids are at school from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and they’re three years old. They don’t spend enough time with their parents. They watch too much T.V., or they’re constantly on the move: violin practice, karate practice, soccer practice. Nothing is indigenous to their neighborhood, which would breed more of a sense of community. Annie misses this feeling of community. When she was younger, the kids would be in the streets. They lived in the outdoors. Annie took her bike outside with the other kids and they explored the neighborhood together. Anything was possible with the wind in her hair, as she rode down hill and breathed in the afternoon sun.
The loss of community is also about attitude. These kids get a lot of attention, in a sense that their individualism is highlighted; they are very self centered. Whenever children are looking for praise, Annie says “how does that make you feel? you look really happy.” She doesn’t say, “that’s great, awesome, you’re so awesome.” It’s a struggle when parents aren’t on the same page, and living in their own little bubble where their career comes first. This attitude manifests in their children. Some parents don’t want to hear about it, some understand but can’t do anything about it. Annie believes that we’ve lost the best environment. “We’ve lost that community structure in our own lives, as families and extended families and neighbors.”
Annie is ready for another job change. She’s ready to move on to another area of work, where she doesn’t have to observe the impact of deep societal problems on three year olds. It saddens her, and is changing her worldview. “What will the kids of my kids be like?
Will anyone be climbing trees in the forest anymore?” She wonders these things, as she talks to me after another long day of excited children and neurotic parents.