Sweden <--> Ohio: Student

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Children are allowed to close doors in preschool here.

They are allowed to play outside of direct adult supervision behind closed doors.

It doesn't sound like much - but think about it. In this post-Columbine school environment - the idea that students would spend any time at all unsupervised, except by accident, is shocking!

There's a reading room with a bed in it. I saw the (male) preschool teacher throw no less than three children on the ground and spank them (in fun, outside in the snow, during some inventive variant of 'tag').

Outside I watched children hide behind bushes, play alone, in groups, on jungle gyms, throw snowballs, wedge themselves between a fence and thick bushes, and run wildly in circles. Inside two boys closed themselves in the block room and proceeded to throw toy trucks across the room (not at each other). Another child sat at the kitchen table and played a memory game by himself.

Other children played with blocks, legos, barbies, and one boy spent 15min pushing a baby buggy with a doll in it past the exchange students smiling at us the whole time.

There were 4 preschool teachers and 32 children from 1-5 years old. We watched them sing songs, dance in a group and alone (hen dance for girls and a cock dance for boys), hear stories about magic eggs and farmers and play bongo drums while being accompanied by their classmates in song. After this high-energy music extravaganza, lasting 20-30min, the children were 'free'. Most chose to go outside and play in the snow. Some chose to stay inside, unsupervised (or perhaps the instructors were relying on us to supervise?).

In my observations about yesterday, I am most struck by the free and comfortable touching that happens between teachers and kids and the incredible freedom that children are given to choose what they would prefer to do. In addition, though everything was brand new and the school is considered quite prosperous (nicer neighborhood, music specialty profile), there was an amazing (to my jaded American eyes) disregard for what we'd call "safety".

I didn't see anyone get hurt and only heard one child cry, once, for 10seconds because she discovered that an exchange student that she fancied was leaving. Children played with incredible restraint, even the truck-throwing boys (they played only in the block room and only with the door closed and never threw anything at each other).

I'm not quite sure what conclusions to draw from this. The preschool students look far healthier, happier, engaged, interested, and creative than any preschool I've seen in the United States. However, the safety standards here are obviously far different - with apparently the result of producing healthy, safe, creative, independent children and adults.

I don't understand.

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