Thursday, October 14, 2010

Straight Lines

I went to another training session on Tuesday, but this one is to work in the public elementary schools helping the little kiddies with their writing.  As part of the training they showed us a video of a third grade teacher working with a few different students on the writing and revising process.

The teacher is working with this kid and asking him to underline or circle parts of his personal narrative that illustrate important ideas.  So the kid takes his ratty old Number 2 pencil and starts drawing these haphazard, very crooked, going all over the place lines, and then decides to add on a "roof" and turn them into circles, which are also haphazard and all over the place.  Not to mention the fact that his handwriting was barely legible.  His narrative was absolutely wonderful - lots of description, an excellent effort for an eight year old.

I had to stop myself from laughing!  In France this kid would have earned himself a punition.  In France all the kids have pencil cases fully stocked with pens in all different colors, erasable pens, white-out, highlighters, scissors, rulers, calligraphy pens, erasers - you get the picture.  Writing in pencil is generally frowned upon, pen is standard.  One time I told the kids to write in pencil because it's easier to erase if you make a mistake, and the teacher came back in the room and yelled at them for not using pens!  If kids have to underline anything it takes 5 minutes because they have to pull out their ruler, line it up exactly, and then draw a perfectly straight line.  And of course by third grade (CE2 in France), the majority of kids have beautifully formed, impeccably neat and always legible cursive handwriting. 

I love America.  Way to value creativity over conformist handwriting and straight lines!


kiwi in france said...

I LOVE this post! It is so true. I didn't even know pen erasers existed before I came to France (NZ is a little far behind). I'm forever asking what people have written because I don't understand their handwriting. I like how we (even in NZ) have more freedom to express 'our' ideas and are encouraged to have a voice of our own even at a young age.

Zhu said...

You should have seen French schools when I grew up in the 1980s and 90s... In the 80s, we didn't have the right to buy pens and pencils, everything was provided by the school and we all had the same crappy Bic. We had regular notebook inspection!

When I was in grade 1 (CP), my teacher was an old bitchy woman. I could already read but she refused to acknowledge it because kids were supposed to learn to read in grade 1. Once day, we had this exercise where we had to color ice cream scoops the right color. Mine said vanilla and I colored it yellow. I was punished because vanilla is white and yellow is for lemon ice cream. Way to trick a 6 years old kid!

My parents are still laughing about it because apparently, I was adamant I was right and the teacher did not like it :-D

Gwan said...

Kiwi in France - ha ha totally, I think the kids (teenagers) thought I was a bit crazy going "oooh, magic pens!" Then they get very unhappy if you grab their paper and cross something out or write something in the margin or whatever, especially in my crappy handwriting!
But come on, by the time you're 16, STOP ASKING ME if you have to take down information as a table or a list or if you need to write a title or whatever!

Loislane said...

Glad to hear this! American kindergartens have come a long way.

When I was five, I was told that despite being the only child in the class who could read, I was being demoted for my poor handwriting and inability to hold a pencil. Then,they made me go to a physical therapist to work on my fine motor skills disability.

My mom said that by the time I grew up, handwriting wouldn't matter as everyone would be using word processors by then. They upgraded to computers of course, but otherwise, she was totally right :)

getyourselfconnected said...

This is a great post on mnay levels.

I can relate to the handwriting thing. All my life I had A grades in school except for in grades 1-6 when I scored all D's or lower in penmanship! I just cannot write well!

Of course I have to leave out that F I got the first time I took Calculus as well. Oops.

au soleil levant said...

Kim - I know, the pen erasers in the US never work, and somehow these French erasable pens are amazing! Just like pencil! I can't stand how in France they still live by the idea that "children are meant to be seen and not heard."

Zhu - wow, no right to buy your own school supplies? I guess that way no one feels bad for not being able to afford expensive stylos plumes. Your story about the vanilla ice cream is so French! And I love that you stood up to your teacher!

Gwan - they still do that in lycee? Good grief, no wonder they all want to grow up to work at the prefecture! That way they can hide behind complicated paperwork forever without coming up with a single original thought!

YDN - Marcia was, as usual, totally right :) Don't worry about your "motor skills disability." Because I'm left handed I couldn't figure out how to use scissors in kindergarten (trust me, it's different for lefties). So my teacher called my mom in for a conference about this "serious problem." Luckily my mom had been dealing with left-handed problems for several years (my dad!) and she just let it go.

GYSC - when I was in first grade my teacher wrote "sloppy handwriting" on one of my worksheets. I was six! What did she expect! So I guess neither of us will win an award for our penmanship.

Monique said...

I love the jellybeans!! Also, when I was writing on the board in France, the kids and teachers (CM1 usually) were so anal about my decision not to use cursive. And when I did cursive, it was different from how they did it.

So they figured English class was also a lesson in cultural handwriting and print haha. I found it quite amusing.

au soleil levant said...

One time I was writing the name of a kid (Joshua) on the board in cursive. All the kids yelled out "that's not how you spell his name!" Because capital cursive J in English is a capital cursive G in French. They were confused. And my goodness, what is up with the capital cursive S in French? It looks like an L!