Monday, September 5, 2011

Put the shoe on the other foot

I haven't worn shoes since the graduation on June 21st, which means I've gotten through the summer without a wake or a wedding.

My feet share the story of summer--they're currently encrusted with the oozy remains of an ill-advised tromp through poison ivy.The tops are brown from melanin, the bottoms brown from dirt. You could make a decent baseball mitt from the leather that lines my soles.

I feel the world differently than I would if I spent my days in shoes. Not saying any better or worse, just different. But once we establish that there is a difference, then we can talk about values.

The kids who live their lives shodless  live a different life than those who live with their shoelaces lashed on tight.

While we dither on about content and standards, the climate you set in your classroom may have profound effects on the way a child see the world, effects that last long after a child has forgotten Pythagoras' theorem.


I'm not saying a child should go barefoot in your classroom. I am saying that before you bind her feet into shoes, you'd better have a better reason than because that's the way it's always been done (a silly reason), or for health (a false reason), or because you said so (abuse of power), or because it's a school rule (an arbitrary reason).

School starts this week for many of us here in New Jersey. Teachers will spend hours droning on about rules. Most high school kids will have less than 5 hours sleep the night before the first day of school and they know all the rules anyway.It's an easy day to waste.

Shake them up a bit. Tell the kids they're required to take off their shoes. Or that they must put their right shoe on their left foot. Or that they must put their socks over their shoes.

Let them tell you why they'd rather not.





(Good Lord, I'm speaking metaphorically....)
The foot in the photo is mine, the critter is a cabbagehead jelly.


9 comments:

John T. Spencer said...

Joel and Micah are barefoot in the backyard. Brenna, sadly, enjoys shoes. They sparkle. It's her little act of non-conformity in a house of bare-footers. I admire her strong will, but I regret her constant desire to wear shoes.

Kathryn J said...

I have heard that it is important to spend part of each day barefoot connected to the earth. I try.

In my classroom however, I'm very clear about shoes. Chemicals, hot things, and the potential for broken glass mean that shoes are required.

I did get called back by my district. Less than 48 hours were available between finding out what I would be teaching and meeting my students on Friday. It has been a scramble but I'm still standing.

I've had to wear shoes now for three days. My feet are not happy with me after a summer of Birks & Tevas.

Cool Hand Luke said...

Dude...your colourful description of your feet put me off my dinner!

doyle said...

Dear John,

Hey, if she wants to wear shoes, why not. It's the "supposed to" wear shoes that boggles me.


Dear Kathryn,

Chemistry class is its own beast.

My feet will be squawking tomorrow, at least for a few hours.I might ask my kids why they're wearing shoes to see what kind of responses I get.

You must be exhausted--even when I get the whole summer to plan I get butterflies.


Dear CHL,

Good thing I left out the poison ivy pic then.

Philip Cummings said...

I'm a few days behind in my reading, but I love this post and had to tip my hat with a comment. The only shoes I've worn all summer have been my runners (when running) and my flippers (for church or to drive) which explains the monster blisters that have developed since school started. I hope you have (had) a great start, Doyle.

Barb said...

PS I never wear shoes at the shore or in my garden

doyle said...

Dear Philip,

I did! I think. We'll know in a few weeks. Looks like I am again blessed with a phenomenal crew of students.

I started out with an ankle's worth of poison ivy, and my dawgs squawked when the lights went out, but they're liberated for the moment, and they have the weekend to look forward to....

doyle said...

Dear Barb,

I deleted the contact stuff, but for those who wonder, Dr. McDevitt and I spent a long day together on September 11 a decade ago, waiting for the wounded on Liberty Island, watching the sun set on a ridiculously lovely September day, during an ugly crisis.

It warms my heart to know you are a part of Barefoot Nation.

Kathryn J said...

I wondered about the 9/11 comment - I figured it had to do with your doctoring days.

Hard to believe it has been 10 years. I still remember that day vividly. It was a crisp, clear fall day here and the sun seemed so out-of-place. My heart and mind were dark and stormy as I waited anxiously to find out whether my NYC friends and family were OK and tried to make sense of what had happened.