Friday, October 08, 2010

Third Grade is the New Cut Sport

In an era where we can’t get kids to participate in many activities, why are we cutting kids out of opportunities they want to succeed at?

This is the question I have been grappling with since Wednesday afternoon, when my 8 year old daughter told me she didn’t get a speaking part in her school musical. Emma tried out for over 10 speaking parts, and didn’t get one-no parts available for her. She was crushed, mortified, heartbroken, and I, for the first time, realized what it was like to be the kid who didn’t make it. It still brings tears to my eyes today as I write this thinking about how here is another opportunity for us to do right by kids, and we limit those who can have a role. Why in third grade can’t there be a role for everyone who wants one? Is third grade a cut sport now? Is third grade the time that we are telling kids, “hey, you are not quite good enough, sorry.”

Growing up as a competitive athlete, heck, I am competitive in about every thing, I really can’t say I ever remember the feeling of being cut out of something-sure when I was older, but not as an 8 year old. I was the kid picked to be on the Dodgeball team, Red Rover team, soccer, volleyball, etc… I never tried out for a play, but would rather have been behind the scenes, and there was always a place for me there. I was cut from my college volleyball team, but I was ready to be done playing then. I was ok with my career being over after playing competitive volleyball for many years.

Wednesday with Emma was the first time I felt like what it was to be the kid no one wanted. (It was so hard being her parent then when all I wanted to do was yell and scream composing some really nasty email to the person who denied my child her heart’s desire). And it made me think a lot about my own classroom. How I am extending learning opportunities and chances to perform, succeed, challenge to everyone; not just those that always get those roles? How am I making a place for everyone in my community of learners? How am I making sure kids don’t feel cut out of my class and making sure they feel as though they have a role?

I have always supported cuts in activities. It helps kids understand that we are all gifted in different ways. This is the conversation that Emma’s step dad, dad and I had with her. She has succeeded in many other ways: art, swimming, soccer. But after our conversation, I had a lot of questions about what we are doing to kids. I am wondering, when did elementary school become a cut sport? When did third grade become the deciding factor in whether Emma is good enough to speak in front of the school? When did third grade become the time for my daughter to start feeling as though she isn’t as “good” a kid as those that did receive roles?

I am not trying to demean the school’s choices; I am sure all those that received speaking roles will be fabulous, but at what point did we decide to limit the participants in school? At what point did we decide that 8 year olds don’t get to do something creative and important to them? (Everyday Emma came home and talked about her excitement over waiting to find out who got a role). If everyone wants a chance to stand up and participate, why would we say no? Why is third grade the new cut sport?

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