Letter: Students suffer when joy is taken from schools

Students suffer when joy taken from schools

To the editor:

Two retired teachers talking over coffee...We've both been out of the Pittsfield Public Schools (Egremont Elementary) for 10 years.

It's hard to fathom how a day in an elementary school has changed so radically in a decade. We were fondly remembering our 4th grade collaborative team and what a joy it was to go to work with each other and those amazing kids every day!

We moved from class to class, teaching our specialties with great enthusiasm and delight. We taught ancient civilizations, science, geography and language arts. We knew each and every 4th grader personally and academically. It was a very special teacher/student relationship.

We were fondly recalling all of our trips with our kids to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, especially to view the ancient cultures wing. Parties at school involving Chinese, Greek and Egyptian culinary delights, performing student-written plays, and putting together clothing trends of those ancient times for parties and performances. Every student was involved in one way or another.

We went to local venues and museums regularly and had experts in our fields visit the school to enrich our students. Ahhhhhh, the good old days!

Presently, so I'm told, there is no time for fun in the daily routine. Spontaneity is missing, with every minute of the day forced to, "time on task and state standards".

In kindergarten, there is no nap time anymore and free-time curiosity play is also a thing of the past. These children are still babies. Why has it been eliminated? Many systems around the country, have seen the damage done, and are reinstating multiple daily recesses.

Snack time and individual birthday acknowledgements, in class, all gone away also, citing allergies as the cause, (Teachers can no longer have a cup of coffee or a snack at their desks!) Eliminated are any type of holiday celebrations which we used to build curriculum around.

I recall my yearly class Christmas recitation of "A Visit From St. Nicholas" to be performed over the public address system for all of the classes to enjoy. It wasn't always an easy task to break down individual lines, but it was a great language arts experience, and the pride for a good job done, was invaluable.

The highest age of the students at Egremont is 10 in 5th grade. Kindergarten to 10-year-olds need more joy in their daily routines. Harsh policies from those at the top need to be rethought.

The writing was on the wall in 2005, as I was preparing to retire. Our classes were also feeling the results of the yearly testing craze that was emerging. One of my brightest students looked at me one day and pronounced, "We're not supposed to have any fun in school any more, are we"?

From the mouths of babes.

All work and no play makes for very sad children and teachers alike!

Christine Jordan, Lenox


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