Working at a daycare has shown me many things and given me much insight into how children behave, and more specifically, how they learn. The kids that I work with are so incredibly eager to learn, it almost makes me jealous. They want to know everything, and they seem to retain anything they find interesting. When i tell them stories, or work on the different topics that we are learning about, they have an ambition to learn just because it interests them.
In no other teaching environment, and i have been in with all grades, have I witnessed children who have such a drive to learn. They want to do math just because they think it’s amazing that I can show them how to do it! I know it is probably a lot different being in a daycare rather than a school, but there is still a much different attitude towards what they are learning.
Then one day I noticed a cancer.
It spread so quickly through the children that I barely noticed the change. The change took a week to get rid of though.
I gave my students a word search to work on, just as a task to keep them focused for twenty minutes, and to go through some Ancient Egyptian vocabulary with them. They were so excited each time they found a word. They wanted to finish the task and find all the words because until they found it, I wouldn’t tell them what it meant. They were racing, and excited, and wanted to learn all the new words.
Then I went on my break.
I came back, and the person who took over for me started marking the word searches. 100% ‘s filled the pages and stickers and the kids all came running to me to tell me they had all got 100%. No more cheering for their actual accomplishments, just excitement for the mark that was written at the top of the page. When I asked if they wanted to learn all the words, they simply said they were done because it already got marked.
These are 5-8 year olds.
I was incredibly disheartened. If they didn’t get a sticker and 100% they didn’t want to do it. They lost their intrinsic want to do the activity. For a week I had to decline their pleads to mark their work. Now they are finally back to wanting to learn for their own reasons.
It’s sad that a race for marks can start so young.