A Gymboree co-teacher showed me a blog entry last week. In it, the mom recounts her experience with a certain dance school where she took her 3-year old daughter for her first ballet class. In a nutshell, the little girl’s ballerina dreams were crushed because the dance teacher said things like, “Put her in her place”, “I am getting mad”, “She does not know how to obey” and finally…
“We will show her we are disciplined here and naughty kids go to Gymboree.”
WOW. Three years old. She was lifted off the class floor and unceremoniously dumped in her mom’s arms, from what I gather. “Give her mom a refund”, the teacher said.
Needless to say, the poor child was heartbroken and my own heart was crushed. All she wanted to do was wear a tutu and pink slippers and dance, dance, dance. Apart from that, my eyebrows shot up a mile with the statement regarding Gymboree. We’ve always been proud in the way we relate to children and their parents. We’re very hands-on and their children become a part of our lives. In my ten years of being a Gymboree teacher, never have I heard that Gymboree is for “naughty children.” It was said so pointedly and even the other children were parroting it – “Naughty children go to Gymboree!!”
In Gymboree, we sing a welcome song, clapping our hands, encouraging the children to do the same. Some of them will do so, but most of them will not. Most of them will stand up and dance the Welcome song instead. When I ask my kids to roll the ball down the slide, they sometimes throw it over the side in delight. When I ask them to walk in a circle, they sometimes wander off to sit on the Rocky Horse or stand by the bridge and watch us from there. We don’t raise our eyebrows at them, or ask them to put their hands behind their back while they stand. How can we, when us teachers sometimes look like this:
Hey don’t get me wrong. I am ALL for discipline and I abhor self-entitlement. But I believe there’s an appropriate disciplinary style for each stage in life. And asking a three-year old to stand still and “behave” while she is in a beautiful pink tutu and ballet slippers with beautiful music filling the room is not just wrong, but cruel.
In Gymboree we encourage our children to explore with their senses – to feel, to see, to hear, to sing. We guide them up foam steps and over wooden platforms, go under boxes and peer through rungs while pretending to be a sleepy bear. We fly parachutes over their heads and tickle their tummies with streams of bubbles and feathers and foam. We stamp their hands, feet, foreheads and noses, paint their fingers, faces and arms, getting splashed with color from head to toe. Along the way they learn to grope and to grasp, not just with their hands and fingers but also with their minds and hearts. We sing at the top of our voices, make silly faces and animal sounds, throw scarves in the air and hide in tunnels. The children learn that a circle is not just a shape but also a place to gather with friends. They discover that foam blocks can turn into igloos and skyscrapers, that balls can be apples today and pumpkins tomorrow. What we call socialization, dynamic balance, concept development and fine motor skills, they call play. For us teachers, seeing these babies blossom in front of our eyes is a privilege and a gift.
The children love music and they love to dance. They love to sing, they love to paint and they love to jump off platforms. So would that be the definition of “naughty”? Then if that’s so, well then.. C’mon naughty children!! Let’s all go to Gymboree!!!