Tag Archives: school

Old Enough To Dance?

I can dance!
I can dance!

The kids do make me think. While substituting in a first grade classroom, we had a special guest whose presentation included a pretty cool rock video of choreographed exercise. It took a few minutes to get everyone in position with their “space bubble” around them so they weren’t interfering with each others’ moves. During that set up one of the kids asked, “Mr. Boomsma, are you old enough to dance?”

My knee-jerk reaction to his question was a chuckle that he’d asked it wrong. What he really meant to ask was, “Mr. Boomsma, are you too old to dance?” Because we were busy I just redirected his attention to the task at hand. “Spread your arms and make sure you’re not touching a neighbor… turn around in a circle…”

Unfortunately it wasn’t until later that I realized I should have asked him about his question. Maybe he meant exactly what he asked and I was the one who was wrong. His original question doesn’t make sense, you say? Why would he think I wasn’t old enough to dance? Well I, for one, will never presume to immediately understand another person’s thought process–particularly a child’s. They tend to be literal but they also tend to be free thinking.

But here’s the thing. In retrospect, the question I thought he meant to ask doesn’t make much sense either. Other than my gray hair, what basis is there for wondering if I’m too old to dance? I’ve occasionally joked that I can still do the things I did when I was young, it just takes me longer. Another variation of that joke is that I can still do the things I did when I was young, just not for as long.

Perhaps my young friend doesn’t carry that baggage with him. At least not yet. As a society, we will mold him and make sure he operates with assumptions, biases and prejudices he may not even be aware he has. Sometimes we do it unconsciously. The process brings to mind the fictional Borg collective from Star Trek. “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

When the video started the kids were mesmerized and I stood back to watch. While I don’t focus on regrets, I do have one from that day.  I should have got right in the middle, created my space bubble, and danced with them. Not only would I have had fun, but I wouldn’t be sitting here wondering if I unintentionally contributed to a perception regarding age that isn’t accurate. There is no age limit on dancing–you can’t be too old and you can’t be too young.

And it’s not just about dancing. It might actually be about everything. Why don’t we wake up every morning wondering what we want to be, what we want to learn, and what we want to do? Why do we wake up tired and then remind ourselves we’re not getting any younger?

In some ways, we can get younger. We can think like a kid–with their freedom of thought and their possibility thinking. I love hearing a kid’s question that starts with, “Mr. Boomsma, what would happen if…”

How easy it is to forget a simple truth: if we truly want to do something, our passion for it opens doors and makes things possible. Some things require practice and there’s a need to balance passion and patience. How ironic is it that I consider an important part of my job in the classroom is convincing kids they CAN do things but I stood on the sideline and missed the fun. What would happen if we just tried a lot more things? What would happen if we put on some music…

They Are All Winners!

l-r: Mrs. Daniels, Jemyni True, Macee Pearl, Mr. Boomsma, Melissa Burdin
l-r: Mrs. Daniels, Jemyni True, Macee Pearl, Mr. Boomsma, Melissa Burdin

On Friday, March 22, Piscataquis Community Elementary School fifth graders learned the winners of the Newspapers in Education Contest during which they were challenged to create an advertisement for the book “Small People; Big Brains.” Perhaps the even bigger challenge was selecting an ad to publish from the many submissions. Judges finally settled on three finalist ads: first place by Melissa Burdin, second by Macee Pearl, and third by Jemyni True. Each student received a certificate of accomplishment and art kit to encourage the development of their skills.Art Teacher Mrs. Daniels received special recognition for her support of the Newspapers in Education program and this special project:

For your constant understanding and for always being there,

To tell them they can do it and to show them that you care!

Principal Mrs. Orton wondered with the group “if we can expect Mr. Boomsma to write a book every year so get this opportunity again…”

There’s never a lack of stories and inspiration from these kids, but I’m not sure I can keep up! Walking down the hall just yesterday a Kindergartner informed me, “I go to school here and my dad coaches one of the teams here… is that weird?” I tried to assure him it was anything but… adults and children can attend the same school and learn from each other. These people may be small, but they often have really big brains.

Small Brains Do Big Job!

We have a winner! Actually we could LOTS of winners. In conjunction with the Newspapers in Education initiative and with the cooperation of Jane Daniels, art teacher at PCES, I commissioned the fifth graders to develop an advertisment for my forthcoming book, Small People – Big Brains: Stories about Simplicity, Exploration, and Wonder. The kids did an incredible job and made selecting the first place winner difficult for the judges! After much deliberation, one ad was selected for printing in the March 27th Newspapers in Education Supplement of the Piscataquis Observer.

The entire project is proving to be great fun! I may have to write another book before next year so we can do it again! We’ll be announcing the winner next Friday at school which means the kids will finally stop hounding me when I’m there!

As for the book itself, it’s in the final editing and illustrating stages. Then comes proofing and cover design. I confess I’m a little behind schedule, but still hoping for an April release date!

Back to School Rules

One day last year I arrived at school a little early to read with second graders. I slipped into the classroom quietly and sat on the edge of a desk, appreciating the opportunity to eavesdrop on the group who were gathered around the teacher considering guidelines for a project they were about to begin. One of the girls slipped away from the group to whisper in my ear. “Mr. Boomsma, you’re not supposed to sit on the desks.”

I thanked her profusely and immediately changed my seating arrangement. I’m always a little embarassed when I unintentionally break a classroom rule but I enjoy how the kids try to help me stay out of trouble.

Rules are good things. I recently happened to read “Ten Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life.” These rules have a somewhat uncertain beginning that appears to involve John Cage, Sister Corita Kent, and may even Bertram Russell. We do know that Sister Kent used them in for an art class she taught and they became the official art department rules for the college of LA’s Immaculate Heart Convent–her alma mater.  Since I know how difficult it can be to know and remember lots of rules, let me share just three.

  1. The duty of a student is to pull everything out of your teacher and your fellow students.
  2. The duty of a teacher is to pull everything out of your students.
  3. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.

Imagine how much our classrooms and schools could change if we could follow them. We perhaps need to expound a bit on rule number three. Here we are talking about the learning environment and process. The ability to make mistakes is an important part of learning and we need to learn and allow that ability. The rule is, I think, leading us to the understanding that a mistake doesn’t equal a failure.

Of course I’m not proposing we allow students (or adults) to sit on desks. But a good place to start education in any form is to define the role of the teacher and students–and the fundamental way we will “make” learning.