My sister was a high-level gymnast for many years. When someone is in the gym that much, it means that the entire family is part of the gym. My job was to drop and pick up little sister at the gym several nights a week. If I was early it meant watching pint-sized muscles whip their bodies around the bars or flip in the sky and land on a 4 inch wide piece of wood. It was amazing. She was amazing. Being a high level gymnast also meant that life was about two things-school and gymnastics. Most gymnasts of this level are straight A students because of their discipline and focus, but there is not a lot of diversification in life. Eat-School-Gym-Sleep.
What in the world does this have to do with me 20 years later? A lot. I think that balance is the key to a successful educational experience(s). I am hearing a LOT of chatter around me lately that includes a no-screen at all approach to elementary education. Then in my PLN I read about 1:1 programs in Kindergarten; the complete opposite. I don’t think either are the right path. Unlike the life of the elite gymnast, we shouldn’t pigeon-hole our youngest children into one kind of learning or an all or nothing approach. Rather, we should give them educational experiences that are rich, creative, innovative, and build on their own inquiry. We need to provide them with a foundation of literacy and numeracy while developing their sense of critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity.
Technology is just one tool for delivering an engaging curriculum. If we eschew screen time in a way that is curriculum-driven and skill development focused, we are out of balance in preparing our kids for the world they live in today. The need for great teaching has not gone away with the advent of technology and the changing pedagogy of our day, rather teachers need to be more adept at differentiation, curriculum design, and multi-dimensional assessment.
While the out-of-balance lifestyle of the elite gymnast is not what we hope for, we can look to the lessons of self-discipline, learning from failure/resilience, and focus from this sport. When a gymnast falls off the beam, they dust themselves off, grab some more chalk, and hop on again. How many articles/books have we all read in the last year or two about learning from failure?
Sometimes interest and enthusiasm will lead us out of balance and that is ok too. We need to embrace where children have natural or developed affinities. And we need to encourage them to try every at least once (even broccoli and typing practice). All of these elements are part of an holistic education.
That sister of mine decided she needed balance in her life and walked out of the gym and into a world of lots of different activities. She is now a brilliant engineer with the most compassionate heart I know. She has strong social skills and is hilarious. All in balance.