A lesson in letting kids be kids.
created by author using Midjourney
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One of the many jobs I’ve procured through Care.com is tutoring a young lady who’s in the 6th grade. We have a lot of fun, and thanks to me and her other tutors, she’s significantly improving in class. But I wonder, what are we stifling with all this extra involvement? She told me her mother tells her she’s garbage at math, which took me aback. She is not, in fact, garbage at math. She just goes too fast and doesn’t read carefully. And I think I know why: She wants to be doing something else. So she speeds through everything so she can move on to the thing she wants to be doing. This past tutoring session she did not have any work — it’s the week before winter break, after all! So I tried to engage her in review, asking her questions about math and science that we’d already gone over. She wasn’t interested. Instead, she wanted to engage me in the “highlighter challenge.” For those who, like me, don’t know what that is, let me enlighten you. You draw lines with highlighters. Then you guess what color they’ll make when you mix them. Yup, that’s it. Because I know my colors, I was able to predict the mixes fairly accurately, despite her doubts. Then we went back to “studying” but she wanted to mess around with the automatic stapler. She was pretty proud of the fact that she was the one who fixed it. She used it to staple a few papers, a napkin, and then her bendy pencil. She also told me there was sugar in the salt shaker and made me taste-test it. Spoiler: it was salt. All the while, I was trying to convince her not to do those things. You’re wasting staples, it’s not yours, what if you break it? After the session, I was really distraught with myself. We didn't do much learning, and I worried her mother wouldn’t keep me as her tutor because we didn't get much done. Then I reflected on how much fun we’d had, how she was curious and experimenting and trying new things, and I wondered again at what the point of school is. To make everyone the same? So I ask you: Did curiosity kill the cat, or did it die because we tried to stuff it into a box?