Tuesday, February 8, 2011
School Days--The Writing On the Wall
...And we are looking at a construction site, because....?
There's been a large construction site next to the elementary school for a year and a half or so now--lots of kids walk by it every day. So you'd expect to eventually see that pristine white wall covered with graffiti...right? Well...sort of. You see something on that wall, right? Here's a closer look:
...that's a nice drawing, isn't it? I liked it--that's why I took a picture of it.
Here's another one:
Awww...carp streamers! And an anime-style girl, both nicely drawn.
Another one I liked...
....a detailed dragon!
Can you see in these pictures that I've taken of the construction wall, that the drawings are not actually on the wall? That is to say, they are not graffiti?
Here's what the kids are actually drawing on:
A white board--there are two of them, in fact. The legend at the top says "Drawing Corner".
Somebody had the brilliant foresight to realize that a looong white wall like that was bound to shout out to kids "Draw on me!", and put up a couple of white boards...
Ok...so why aren't the whiteboards just filled with rude pictures and words?
Because they take photos of the really good (or cute, in the case of the first graders) drawings and post them permanently on the wall for everyone to see and enjoy. Go look at that top picture again--see all the drawings posted all the way down the construction wall? Kids are kids, so I'm pretty sure not every single drawing is innocent and pure--but the non-offensive good drawings are the ones that get photographed, laminated, and posted.
Somebody is *really* good at drawing Pokemon characters!
I walk by and check from time to time to see if there are new drawings up. Every time I look at that wall, all I can think is--what a smart end run around inevitable behavior! Japanese parents and teachers are incredibly good at positively interpreting what children are doing. They always seem to me to do this instinctively. I've tried to pick up on it. My instinct is nearly always negative--and it leads to arguments or anger or punishment that maybe wouldn't have happened if I'd assumed a positive motive. Kids, for example, like to grab mom's keys. I used to demand that they give them to me (assuming they would lose my keys, or drop them in the toilet, or some such). A much better way to get those keys back? Look as genuinely surprised as you can, smile broadly, and say "Oh! You *found* mommy's keys! Thank you! Mommy was looking everywhere! Thank you!"...all while holding your hand out. Toddlers will look confused, then echo your smile, then drop those keys right into your hand. The same kind of generally positive spin on behavior works with older kids, too. Those white board were a way of saying "Hey! You all draw so well, please come and draw some pictures for us that we can put up! Thank you!"....so the kids came and drew pictures instead of graffiti. It always makes me think of zen master Shunryu Suzuki--"If you want to control your cow, put him in a wide field and watch him." In other words, only by observing and watching first can you know when and how to help or what kind of instruction to offer. I'm not sure, though, whether Japan is infused with Zen ideas, or whether Zen--after coming to Japan--became infused with Japan...
Mata asobou, ne!