Every Friday afternoon, one of my co-teachers reads a portion of a chapter book to our students. This month we have been reading Stuart Little by E. B. White. On Monday afternoons, I lead circle. We review and discuss what happened in the portion of the book they read on Friday and provide a work to coincide with events in the book. This week when reviewing Friday’s happenings, one of my students raised his hand and said “I’ve seen the Stuart Little movie”. Which obviously lead to more than half of the circle raising their hands to tell me the same thing. This, in turn, lead to “I watched Stuart Little on the TV in my car”, followed by chorus of “me too”‘s. I asked everyone with a TV in their car to raise their hand. One, because then I wouldn’t have to call on each of them to tell me the exact same thing and two, because I was curious. I learned that about 70% of my students have a television in their car.
The next morning, I was chatting with a mom and found out that her son wants to have a play date with a friend, because the friend has a TV in her car.
I never realized that kids were so excited about the prospect of having a TV in their car.
As I pondered this, thoughts started racing through my head faster than a snowball in an avalanche.
How many kids actually have TVs in their cars?
What are they watching?
What aren’t they watching?
I never had a TV in my car as a kid.
My family played games on long drives.
Bet parents with TVs in their cars enjoy the quite of their kids.
Growing up, my mom took us kids for a lot of drives. We would drive, just to drive. Of course gas wasn’t almost 4 dollars a gallon in those days. We played left turn, right turn. At an intersection, we would take turns deciding which way we would go next. We ended up in Vermont, Massachusetts, Northern New York, anywhere and everywhere. We had competitions to see who could see more… deer, out of state licence plates, red cars, etc. We played name that artist and name that tune (I always thought the singer was Toni Braxton, still a long running joke in the family). We would stop along the way for a picnic lunch, for ice cream, to use the restroom, or just to see the sights. It wasn’t all fun and games, we did our share of complaining… usually about stinky cows though.
Kids who are watching TV are missing out on quality family time. They are not seeing the world happening all around them. Kids are not learning how to observe the world as an outsider. Not to mention that they are getting any number of hours of screen time that just aren’t necessary. They are learning how to zone out and disconnect from their immediate surroundings.
I remember the day I realized I was just an ant marching along with millions of other ants in the world. So much goes on around us, that we don’t know about, unless we know how to look. It is not even about how or where to look, but seeing beyond the façade of our own busy lives. Taking the time to observe others, the time to realize there is more than just ourselves. We are a part of this world, but we are not the whole world.
I want my students to look AND see. I want them to see more than just a television screen. I want them to grow-up with personal experiences. I want them to be able to reference those experiences, to learn from them and live their lives the very best they can.
They say “All I ever really need to know, I learned in Kindergarten”. My students are at an important stage in development. As teachers, our job is to guide and support them while they are building the foundation for the rest of their lives. I hope that in these busy times, parents remember to take a deep breath, and just talk. Talk to children about anything and everything. Show children how to take the time to see what is important in their own lives, as well as in the greater world. Parking kids in front of the tube will keep them occupied and keep them quite. But does it keep them thinking? Does it help them see? Does it help them live in reality? Does it help them be a part of the world around them? These are things I wonder/worry about.
Fear not, the future is bright. I hope my friends grow-up learning to see the world they live in.