The 9th graders at Natalie’s school went on a field trip to the Natural History Museum. Although many field trips are enjoyable, going to a museum isn’t Natalie’s favorite kind of field trip. The reason is she never gets to spend the time she wants studying displays. She’s hurried along or retrieved when she stops to study something closely (one of the teachers found her still reading about dinosaurs when everyone else had moved on to the mammal room). Her pet peeve is the form that is often distributed to fill out with information while walking through the museum. “It turns exploring into an assignment. I don’t end up making discoveries because I’m so busy filling out the form.” Perhaps it’s the difference between being a tour group kind of person or not… Or is it the difference between “delving” and “skimming.” Here are some pictures we’ve taken of Natalie in museums. She loves exploring in museums, taking her time to study, not just look. I think she spent 10 minutes bent over the display case in the State House picture below.
I understand. It’s nice to explore in a museum at your own pace, occasionally sharing discoveries with a companion or two along the way.
But there was something else Natalie had plenty of time to observe while at the Natural History Museum. Outside, while waiting for everyone to gather to walk back to the school bus, she watched a large group of young children who were on their own field trip.
Natalie: It made me so glad I’m not a first grader.
Natalie: A group of them were getting ready to eat lunch at the picnic tables. One of the little boys yelled, “I want my lunch! I want my lunch!” Then he repeated it. One of the teachers distributing lunches snapped, “You have to say please.” So he answered, “Please! I want my lunch.” He was given his lunch after receiving a lecture on the importance of saying ‘please.’ But I couldn’t help noticing how rudely this teacher was speaking to the children. She was barking at them, “Sit down! Say please! Don’t yell! Be quiet!” Not once did she say the word ‘please’ herself. Yet she expected the children to say it. She was yelling at the children to be polite, but she was being so gruff and rude to them. It was sad.
Pamela: That is sad.
What Natalie had observed made me think about what I just read in The Hurried Child (Third Edition) by David Elkind, Ph.D.
Here’s the excerpt: Being polite to children is very important and may do as much for improving parent-child relations as many of the more elaborate parental strategies that are currently being proposed. The essence of good manners is not the ability to say the right words at the right time but, rather, thoughtfulness and consideration of others. When we are polite to children, we show in the most simple and direct way possible that we value them as people and care about their feelings. Thus, politeness is one of the most simple and effective ways of easing stress in children and of helping them to become thoughtful and sensitive people themselves.