I want to make it clear from the beginning. I speak knowingly. I am very aware of this and I am writing this with some shadow of regret.
But to get to the heart of the matter. Direct?! No, not really, more bypass. I’m going to make a little foray into the past.
When I was a student, I felt on my own skin what overwork meant. I learned a book during communism, when they studied six days a week, and Sunday, a day of relaxation, a day off, was so short for so many things I couldn’t do during the week. At least theoretically Sunday belonged to us, because there was always something to do.
I will not hide the fact that I was a good student. I learned, hoping that learning would secure the bright future we were talking about at the time. But before the bright future, the gloomy present demanded its tribute.
On Sundays we were asked to do all kinds of Olympics – I’m talking about the students who were learning, not the whole class – one more important than the other. Romanian language, mathematics, history, geography, to mention only the most important ones. Everyone was pulling on us, the best in the class, to get results that would take the school’s fame far, far beyond the hill. And each of the teachers behaved as if only the discipline he was teaching was the only one on earth. Learn not to make fun of us. Sometimes these were the only “methodological indications”. It doesn’t matter how, but especially when. Learn to make a beautiful figure. Learn by candlelight if necessary (and so we learned that the “current” was taken). If you fail, it’s your fault. If you succeed… Guess who is responsible.
Then there were other competitions, plus no attendance at training sessions with the pioneers. Student brigades. Cartoons and school theater, school celebrations smelling more or less of a political flavor.
To all this and much more we were asked, the best in the class. Less in football, because we didn’t know much about it, although we really liked football. Colleagues who didn’t really kill themselves with teaching, but instead had time to devote to running after the ball, were better at it. And we, the “nerds” would have liked to score the winning goal, but we had no chance. We lacked training, not desire. But when to train? When the sun blew you out, on the field, preparing for the Olympics or other competitions kept you at home. Who to choose? It’s like you had a choice.
That’s how it was then. But now, from this point of view, it is even worse. Much worse. The calendar of competitions and competitions, exhibitions, Olympics of any nature and color is hideous to oversize. Extracurricular activities tend to take over children all the time. If you have statistical curiosities, you will notice that there is not a day that there is not something to replace the already overcrowded program of children. Contests organized by those who are allowed and not allowed. The Olympics have multiplied and there are still signs that they can continue to do so. Exhibitions, acting contests, drawings on all possible surfaces and the list could go on and on.
All are for students. All! Which students? Well, I guess you’re guessing. Learning students. Students that everyone draws from. Go to the Math Olympics, what matters is that you didn’t come back after the Romanian Olympics and you just finished coloring the drawing for that weirdly named exhibition, plus the two dozen or so martisoare, plus congratulations, what to do, 1 , March 8 moves so fast. You also go to Physics and Chemistry, so that there is no fire, but what about making fifty or sixty horrible dolls out of reusable materials? Oh, and there’s the poetry contest, because you’re still great at Romanian, come on, put in some lyrics. And on this occasion, you can repeat your role for that play you wrote with your colleagues. You have talent, you still lack motivation. By the way, you have to come and plant trees, because you have to put the birdhouses you worked on… Well, what interests me when you made them, it’s good that you made them. To take pictures of them and give you a diploma, to have something to show your grandchildren.
And this dictatorial monologue continues from September to June-July. That there are activities on holiday… All done with and on the student’s skin. Which is often stretched like elastic to get as much coverage as possible.
Why was this situation reached? Why is the talented student involved in an increasing number of activities that exhaust him rather than help him develop? Why not go on a reasonable number of extra activities, which do not burden, which really please? If they are still extracurricular activities, why not let the children choose them, do what they like? We are talking about relaxing the schedule, about activities that are as enjoyable as possible, but is this achieved with such a busy schedule with activities that sometimes children don’t even like?
An old saying goes that the horse that pulls gets hit harder. Adapted to the educational system, it would sound something like this. Everything is required of the student who learns. To participate, to get involved, to make available the few chronological resources for activities that, in the long, short or medium term, do not offer him any satisfaction.
Ask them. And if you can prove to them that you really care, their answers will surprise you. And they’ll tell you what they really like. Yes, they like to play the most, but not only that. Because they are children and we cannot brutalize them with a longer program than an adult. They want to be children, not bastards in the fields of teaching, slaves in the gallery of points.
Let’s try to understand them and remember that when we were students we liked or disliked certain things. But no one asked us about them.