Well, here we are again with my kindergarten in Japan. There are so many art forms to explore when creating. My kids started out using simple paper and markers when they first decided to work on their self-portraits. It was only a warm up though. We gave the kids a lot of opportunities to explore other media to create themselves. Why limit their creativity?
One thing that I thought odd while teaching here is that while my school advocates for creativity and diverse experiences, the final products that the kids work on are usually very uncreative, look very similar, and have to be just perfect. In fact, I often saw teachers “fixing” a child’s work after they had finished. They would reposition things, color in areas missed or add things on to make it look more uniform and “pretty”.
At their age, they aren’t really concerned with what adults define as beautiful. They are in it for the experience… have you ever noticed that children experimenting with the colors of paint often end up with sopping wet paper in the awesome shade of poop brown? To an adult, it’s hideous but to that child… they’ve learned a lot. The end product isn’t really important… rather the experience was rewarding.
In my kindergarten in Japan, it just doesn’t look acceptable to present work like that to the parents. It’s not impressive and doesn’t add to the decoration of the classroom. Since Japan greatly values appearance, I can see their viewpoint. I wondered occasionally though if it was all worth it to have everything “just right”. Teachers spend a lot of time fixing artwork and I wonder how the children felt about it. Does it put pressure on them to conform and only accept one way of thinking?
So, the final self-portrait for my kids looked generic and “beautiful”. We had to fix jagged edges, realign limbs and display their modified versions. In a school that really focused on creativity, this aspect of it all puzzled me. Although they follow a western (Wiki can tell you more) educational philosophy, there are still hints of the Japanese way inside of it. After all, these kids will move on from kindergarten in Japan to public school and have to conform to the more traditional way of learning. Let’s face it, it’s not that creative or accepting of differences.
I noticed that the kids didn’t put a lot of effort into their work when they knew it would be on display. They took a long time to finish, almost as if they could care less. Could they sense their creativity being stifled? I guess no one likes being told what to do, myself included. Why put effort into something that doesn’t matter to you? It isn’t a problem for kindergarten in Japan only; I see this in American schools all of the time.
Q: Did you feel like your early years in Education were creative? Or did your school adopt the more traditional system of learning?