Thursday, October 13, 2011

The sponges that we are

Today I had quite an unusual experience. I had the chance to teach a big group (18-20) group of 4-5 year olds. It's quite a new thing for me and I must admit I was scared like hell. It went pretty ok, the preschool wants me to come back again, so I wasn't too bad. I have the professional experience of teaching teenagers, these tiny little creatures are all new species to me.

This new opportunity sent me for help. I've been researching the internet for songs, activities and general info on how to teach EFL to this age group. One of the most common advice is: songs. Now, I am not a singer, not even in the very amatour understanding... but as my best friend said (a great singer and a mother to a 4yo as well), the kids dont' care and singing is absolutely crucial.

I've realized I know no English children songs. "Old Macdonald's farm" is more or less known, but that's about it... thanks to the internet I have been listening to dozens of traditional nursery and children songs... Many of them I realized I kind of knew or heard somewhere (movies etc.). But funny thing happened... I started to actually listen to the words.
I can't even tell how many of those talk about the very traditional divisions of gender roles, marriage (heterosexual obviously) and social expectations. From the age of an infant we are filled with ready plan for life. We also learn that boys are made of adventure, dirt and snakes and girls of nice things. That it's bad to have fun at school (Mary had a little lamb), that girls want to marry soldiers, and so on.

If we add to it the typical well-wishing aunties asking if we "have a fiance" already before we even reach the first grade, or the typical constant comments on what's proper for a girl or a boy, there is very little surprise in how strong these kind of stereotypes are in each of us. And how much strength it takes to see them... they are invisible for the most part unless you look at them from outside....

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