We often hear the expression “for the children” and it is usually used to describe a noble effort to improve the lives of or teaching of our children. In our enthusiasm and exuberance sometimes the application misses the target or causes more harm than good.
In our schools we offer special programs such as the MOSAIC Program and discuss issues such as discrimination, bullying, diversity and prejudice. But what is the atmosphere we create in our schools?
The Coventry Grammar School PTO newsletter has caused great concern that we as a community create and foster an atmosphere that may well highlight and reinforce prejudice and negative feelings resulting in lower self esteem for some of our children. While the MOSAIC program is designed for children in the upper grades the concern here is with the damage being done to the children in the lower grades, specifically grades one and two.
On October 29th those grades will be having a “Storybook Character Day” when students will be expected to dress as their favorite character from a storybook or recent book that they have read. On the surface that sounds like fun but we must look at the diversity of our classrooms before we make such an assumption. Will it be a positive experience for all or for some will it be a day of embarrassment, perhaps ridicule and another negative experience and a blow to their self esteem.
Remember this is the first and second grade we are talking about when we talk about coming to school dressed as a character. Who is this day for, whose creativity is being challenged when in the newsletter to parents it says, “Start your imaginations working”. Yes we have some creative artistic parents, some with vast economic resources ready to accept the challenge and assure a positive fun experience for their child. Unfortunately not every student has the same economic opportunities or positive home environment. That is not their fault but it is a burden life that they must live with.
What about the student that can not afford a costume? What is our concern for a student from a dysfunctional family where costumes will receive no priority? What is the atmosphere we are creating when one child views their peers as having a beautiful or creative costume while they suffer with embarrassment and perhaps ridicule? This “Character Day” relies far too much on parental creativity and far too little on the creative mind of a child.
If you were a young child without the silver spoon, without the opportunity, without the parental guidance, if doing without was part of your life how would you feel as you looked around your classroom on “Character Day? Second grade should be a time of innocence and we should not be creating an atmosphere within our schools to demonstrate the harsh realities of inequality.
When our test scores indicate reading comprehension is not what it should be, creative costumes are a diversion from the goal. It would be far better for a student to use their mind and demonstrate reading comprehension by telling us what their favorite character would be doing or how they would be acting if they were in Coventry for a day. We would see a demonstration of the creativity of the student rather than the creativity of the parents. Developing our students self esteem, independent learning skills and reading skills, is far more important than demonstrating parental creativity.
Who will speak for the child without a voice, without opportunity, will you be the one? If you want to help a child let your voice be heard. You can make a phone call or send an email and remember “it is for the children”.
Superintendent of Schools – Dr. Donna Bernard
Telephone: (860) 742-7317