Skip to main content

A Cobra Trap

This is a cobra trap. You can tell it's a cobra trap because it says "cobra" on it. (It was later amended to say "no cobra.") It is an emery board (standing in for a cobra because although he knew I didn't have a cobra lying around, he was still a little disappointed). Then there are 7 newspaper bags around it, since, "You need seven layers, because if it escapes from one layer,you have to make sure it still doesn't get out." Later, a parachute was added.

The creator is my nephew, a wonderfully imaginative 6-year-old we'll call T. T is smart, creative, sometimes relentless, and funny. He's also really fortunate. He gets to learn AND gets to be creative. He goes to his neighborhood public school, in a good school district, and loves the teachers he's had so far.

T is an example of why creative play is so important. He teaches himself through play -- whether it's with maps, science experiments, or designing robots. He's fortunate to have parents and teachers who encourage him and teach him about what he's doing when he creates. It can sometimes be a little frustrating to find your butter in the microwave, dog toy in the freezer, or (recently) a giant concoction of dish soap, flower petals, and water all over my kitchen sink. "It's a science experiment!" But the frustration fades when I realize how much he's learning. (Also that I can give him back to his parents!)

Kids need creative play. You can find article after article (after article!) about how important creative play is, but we often don't give kids the space for it, either because of academic standards that don't always match with developmental milestones, or because teachers or parents are overwhelmed and don't have the bandwidth to facilitate this kind of play. And some underperforming schools are so pressured to focus on academics only that there's just no time for anything else.

I don't know statistics, but thankfully, I've seen more of an understanding lately that kids need to play to learn. I personally know many teachers who are adamant that their students get the creative play they need. Remember, cobra traps may just be a precursor to inventing something that the world truly needs!


Popular posts from this blog

It's Not the Teaching

My favorite thing about teaching is not teaching. I'm sure there are teachers who love that part of it - who live for the moment that a lightbulb goes on in a student's mind and who are fascinated by pedagogy -- who stay up thinking about different ways of explaining a math problem or a grammatical concept.

I don't mind those things, and I like some of them. And, of course, it is wonderful to see that light bulb go on. But that isn't why I personally teach.

For me, the reason to teach is the whole child.

I love dealing with their brains. Their brains are so different at different ages and stages of development! Sometimes students are absolutely infuriating but it's totally developmentally appropriate. Sometimes you can almost literally see the neural pathways forming, like when third graders start questioning why Native Americans are called Indians, and I want to cheer them on: "Yes! Think things through! Taken nothing for granted!"Sometimes they are so i…

"There Are No Children Here"

This book was the one that inspired me to write Literally Unbelievable: Stories of an East Oakland Classroom. It is the story of two brothers growing up in a housing project in Chicago. The title comes from their mom saying, "But you know, there are no children here. They've seen too much to be children."

I was reminded of this book recently when I had dinner with a former student. She's 14 and in 8th grade. She was telling me about what she and her close friends have been through: homelessness, near-homelessness, sex trafficking, seeing people shot, friends who have died, parents and siblings in prison, watching drug deals, being locked in closets while family members smoked crack, and (unsurprisingly) depression, psychosis, and suicidal ideation.


We have to do better by these kids. They are being robbed of their childhood.

What to do?

Well, raising awareness is key. That's why I wrote Literally Unbelievable, so that people can under…

The Day Before Prison

Tomorrow is a prison visit to Jorge, the student who is in chapter 10 in my book. I always dread these. It goes like this: I get up earlier than I want to and find something to wear that doesn't involve blue, khaki, or forest green. Red is not expressly forbidden but it is discouraged, because of gang connotations. I can't have a scarf and a rain jacket must be clear. I have to measure the length of my shorts or skirt if it's hot weather. Then I drive to east Oakland to pick up Jorge's family, then drive to Orinda and meet a wonderful incredible generous friend, who then drives us 3 1/2 hours to the least beautiful part of California. We then go in and get treated like we’re not people by the guards, and if they’re feeling particularly spiteful, they insult or his sister or grandmother because they know they can get away with it. Last time they leered at his sister and made fun of her for wearing a "see-through" shirt. (It wasn't at all.) This gave them a…