By Ken Bradbury
I might be imagining this, but I think I’m right. My Lincoln Land theatre class sometimes meets in the cafeteria of Triopia Elementary School as we spend some time teaching acting techniques to the school’s fourth graders. And on each of these afternoons, at about 2:30 p.m., we are treated to a tiny parade of kindergarten students walking dutifully in line on their daily hike to get a carton of milk from the kitchen cooler. It’s about the cutest little procession you’ll ever see, their eyes wide in surprise, wondering what we’re doing as we climb the walls and roll on the tile floors, pretending to be actors.
And unless I’m seeing things, I think that when I look into the eyes of my college students I see a bit of envy. They miss their milk time. It’s been twelve years or so since any teacher lined them for milk and so long ago that it was still legal to bring a homemade cookie into a school. Current regulations now guard our little ones against outbreaks of peanut plague and lemon frosting leprosy. Word has it you can’t bring treats to school.
Some of the simplest joys of early education have been sadly dropped from the curriculum, fearing I suppose that they take too much time away from testing. But I miss them . . . things like Show and Tell.
Who can forget the joy of spending a sleepless night in anticipation of taking Grandpa’s World War II medals to show your class, the genuine Indian headband made by a souvenir-selling squaw in Wisconsin Dells, or that lightning bug that you caught last night and put in a jar but somehow didn’t survive the bus ride to school? There’s nary a soul more excited than a second grader with a treasure to share or a secret to tell at Show and Tell gave you a legitimate reason to brag a bit about where you’ve been or what you had hidden under your bed. Don’t we all miss that?
Sometimes I’ll begin my college class by simply asking who has some good news to share with the group. When I first ask this question I’m usually met with confused stares. I don’t mean to be cruel and say that it’s been years since a teacher began their class by being interested in their lives instead of the current assignment, but sometimes I have to wonder. I know that at least in the elementary schools this is still very much a concern of the educators. So why do we stop Show and Tell just because adolescence has set in? Does puberty prohibit personalization? The good news is that after I’ve asked this question for a few days running, even college students will freely throw up their hands. In fact, if I do it often enough, the kids find themselves trying to remember the really good things in their day so they can spread the joy. I miss Show and Tell.
Remember recess? It was the reason I attended fifth grade . . . and sixth and third and … In any case, that one break from the tedium of making my cursive S’s so they wouldn’t look like A’s and struggling through the angst of the multiplication tables was like a little bit of heaven in the midst of pubescent purgatory. In fact, if pressed I think I could make a decent case attesting to the fact that I learned almost as much on the playground as I did in geography . . . which only points to how well I paid attention in geography. But darn it, I learned to take my turn on the slide, not to jump on a moving merry-go-round, how to pitch against left-handers, and perhaps most notably, how to simply get along with the rest of the human race. In math class we were not equal. My cousin Bill always knew the answer, and in reading, Roberta could always read faster, but on the playground we were on equal footing … at least until I tried to jump onto the merry-go-round. Some schools have cut out recess altogether and some sadly keep it only as a way to fulfill their physical education requirement. I miss recess.
So would it be so totally out of place to simply sit Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and Bashar al-Assad down and say, “Boys, it’s time for milk and cookies!” Would the world come crashing down if someone grabbed Hillary, Donald, Bernie and Ted by the neck and quietly explained, “Okay kids, we’re going to have Show and Tell. Let’s begin by talking about what makes us happy!” And if any of these world leaders or wanna-be’s objected, we’d simply say they’d have to stay in for recess.