Yesterday I was fortunate enough to accompany Brooklyn on her class field trip to the Parc Tête d’Or. Overall, it was marvelous. Despite the chaos of loading 30 four and five year-olds onto the city bus, the adventure was worth it. With its flower beds in full-bloom, the Parc is absolutely gorgeous at the moment. The weather was perfect, and the kids really enjoyed the exhibition of musical instruments from around the world, especially since many trees had hidden speakers that played ethnic music when you walked past.
Nevertheless, one particular incident from the afternoon has kept me pondering and reflecting ever since. At one point, the teacher (maitresse) sat all of the kids down on the ground and showed them a "spring tree"--pointing out the trunk, branches, leaves, and flowers. Then she passed out little clipboards and pencils so that everyone could draw the tree in front of them. From my perspective, I couldn't see Brooklyn's actual picture, but I could see her excitedly drawing. As the teacher went around from student to student looking at their work, I waited anxiously to see what she would say, almost as if my art were being evaluated.
"No, no, no," I heard her teacher say. "You're supposed to draw the flowers on the tree. I'm not interested in the flowers on the ground." Brooklyn, sitting two feet away from some brilliant yellow dandelions, had been more intrigued by these flowers than the white ones dangling from the branches above.
I was shocked and stunned, almost hurt. Not only had every student been directed to draw the very same tree, but they had to conform and draw it in exactly the same way. Taking in the "whole" picture was unacceptable. I felt sad and slightly angry that my daughter's creativity, originality, and perceptiveness was being stifled.
For the rest of the afternoon, it was difficult to quiet my inner voices that yearned to be harshly judgmental of Brooklyn's teacher and France's educational system. I appeased them by remembering that Brooklyn's teacher is quite a bit older and comes from a different generation, and that I really have so much to be thankful for. Day after day, this teacher welcomes my spirited child with a smile.
It wasn't until this morning that I gained a clearer perspective and realized that I need to remove the beam from my own eye before I start poking at the mote in my neighbor's. After all, how many times have I chided Brooklyn for dawdling to pick dandelions along the side of the road, rushing her along so that we could get to our "real" destination to look at whatever I considered to be more "important." If I am going to create fertile ground where creativity and originality can flourish, I must first learn to pause...and be patient.