Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kids these days

My students had their school Christmas shows this week.  On Monday was preschool, and it was super cute.  They mainly just sort of shuffled around on stage, though the five-year-olds did break out some impressive feats of coordination and even speaking (in Spanish, of course).  The costumes were super intense, and between that and my recent viewing of Love Actually, combined with my knowledge of Farsang in Hungary, I've decided that must just be a European thing.  I credit maternity/paternity leave and flex time for more parent involvement.

Anyway, I couldn't go to Tuesday's first-third presentation because I had a presentation in class.  I had originally chosen that date, then discovered there would be a Christmas show and found someone to change with me for last week.  Of course, then last week I went and got a pretty horrible case of pink eye, so I couldn't present and had to do it this week in the end.  Sigh.  Today was the fourth-sixth grade show, and it was really awesome.  Don't get me wrong, some parts were better than others.  But some of the parts were really actually quite funny and creative, and one in particular was hilarious.  I'll be writing a separate post about that later.

Both shows were interesting also for their heavy religious themes in certain skits, also very European and especially so given I'm at a Catholic school this year.  They both ended with our priest/director urging us, basically, to keep the Christ in Christmas.  Of course, he phrased it as an admonition to not deprive one's children of potential salvation.  It's funny because he's normally such a mellow guy, and I've seen him drink and dance and write potentially embarrassing gloating emails about Barcelona's football victory over Real Madrid (that was a fun one to receive).  And then Jesus comes up and he instantly goes full pre-Vatican II-style firey priest.

Another thing that really struck was the difference in the two groups.  Of course there are huge developmental differences between 3 and 12, something I get to experience every day due to my convoluted teaching schedule.  But the difference between the preschoolers stomping around and shaking their arms and the sixth graders dropping to the floor and writhing back up (in front of a priest!) while the song goes "dame un movimiento sexy" (give me a sexy move) was a little bit disconcerting.  And it made me a little bit sad that these eleven and twelve year old girls felt that they had to shake their hips and run their hands down their bodies to dance and that the boys felt they had to only pump their fists and strut around in a very masculine fashion.

I feel like I was lucky to grow up when I did rather than now.  Of course there was peer pressure and all that stuff.  Of course I've always felt a bit awkward, a little fat, whatever.  That's life and I think it's eternal and timeless.  I distinctly remember the first time I followed a peer-accepted/enforced trend, though, and it's really not the same for today's girls (and yes, I feel for the boys as well, but I can't identify with the experience as much).  In seventh grade everyone was wearing striped sweater vests over button down shirts, and I whined and whined until my mom bought me a few.  Seriously.  Sweater vests.  The girls today have their skirts rolled up to high heaven, they won't wear certain colors because those are "boy colors," third graders have told me they think they're fat, and on and on.  And it breaks my heart. 

Maybe I was an unusual kid.  Maybe my friends were, too.  Or maybe I really did feel all this pressure and just had parents that were tough enough to not let me dress like everyone else and have since forgotten about it. But I honestly don't remember this huge societal pressure towards the sexualization of young children.  And it's enfuriating.

Side note: the style of dress itself is not the issue.  I have no problem with girls rolling up their skirts for a large variety of reasons including that it's hot, that they are uncomfortable, that they want to run and play and find it easier to do so in a shorter skirt, that they find it an intriguing style choice, or that they just feel like it.  What I have the issue with is when I ask an eleven-year-old girl why she's rolled her skirt up so high and she replies that she has to do so or nobody will like her.  It's about the motivation.  I wear short skirts quite often, if I like the skirt.  Of course, I'm an adult, but still.  The skirt isn't the issue.  (And just because someone is wearing a short skirt doesn't mean you get to stare at their legs for twenty minutes at 2330, creepy bus dude.)  I've been a victim of the blame-the-clothes movement as a woman with breasts (they're there, and I'm not going to live in baggy Ts and turtlenecks, so if you see a shadow of cleavage or a bra strap, just realize it's not there to either offend or titillate, it's just there) and that is the last thing I'm saying.  Again, it's about the motivation.

Phew.  It looks like I'm going to be teaching this age group more in the future, and I hope I can handle it without spending the entire time going on feminist, anti-anything-phobic, choose-your-own-life, don't-be-ashamed-of-who-you-are style rants!

Anyway, despite the rather heavy place the shows took me, I did enjoy them immensely.  They showed such hard work and creativity, and were a lot of fun.  So I'll end by letting you look at cute pictures of kids, rather than with my rant.

This presentation actually allowed me to sit through Jingle Bells, my most despised Christmas song, without winding up shaking and rocking in the corner.  I would even venture that I sort of enjoyed it.
Waka-waka.  Of course.  All the groups in the entire school, from 3 to 19, did waka waka.  And also of course, the girls are Hawaii-themed "African dancers" and the boys are footballers.  At least these ones had the same dance moves regardless of gender.  And it was cute when they shrieked "WAKA WAKA" over and over.  I still don't hate waka-waka, shockingly enough.  Good job, Shakira.
These adorable three-year-old toy soldiers literally just sort of shook around on stage.  One fell.  It was very sweet.
A fourth-grade play about astronauts of confusing and often multiple nationalities that headed to Mars to look for minerals after we used up the Earth.  They are caught by Martians, menaced with "pumpkin lasers" by the Martians' guard-robots, and Pluto the dog is there, too.  Eventually they learn humility from the Martians, and convince them to release them through the power of dance.  Waka waka?  Of course!  It's stuff like this that makes me love teaching.
fourth-grade waka-wakistas
These sixth-grade boys put on the single best thing I've ever seen primary-school kids do.  If I don't blog about it separately soon, send me hate comments.  Because it was awesome.
Hmm... elementary school kids putting on a performance?  Recorders, definitely.
gangstas, yo


Anonymous said...

How beautifully and clearly put! Exactly! I couldn't agree more. It is one of the saddest sights when kids - who otherwise should be free, playful and happy - spit on themselves just to try to be loved, or to be accepted by a stupid and often worthless society. Both genders prostitute themselves for a little bit of love and acceptance, but that they should think they have to start doing it at such a young age is depressing. It takes a lot of courage, self-respect and clear analysis of people to break out of the "man box" or the "woman box" and live freely as we are all supposed to. What are we without freedom? Now really?

Mate from Hungary

Dad said...

Are they footballers or soccerers?

I agree with your rant 100% and I also thought you looked nice in the sweater vests!

Love ya, Dad xo