How does a teacher begin to appreciate and tap the rich creative resources of the fantasy world of children? What social functions do story playing and storytelling serve in the preschool classroom? And how can the child who is trapped in private fantasies be brought into the richly imaginative social play that surrounds him?
The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter focuses on the challenge posed by the isolated child to teachers and classmates alike in the unique community of the classroom. It is the dramatic story of Jason—the loner and outsider—and of his ultimate triumph and homecoming into the society of his classmates. As we follow Jason’s struggle, we see that the classroom is indeed the crucible within which the young discover themselves and learn to confront new problems in their daily experience.
Vivian Paley recreates the stage upon which children emerge as natural and ingenious storytellers. She supplements these real-life vignettes with brilliant insights into the teaching process, offering detailed discussions about control, authority, and the misuse of punishment in the preschool classroom. She shows a more effective and natural dynamic of limit-setting that emerges in the control children exert over their own fantasies. And here for the first time the author introduces a triumvirate of teachers (Paley herself and two apprentices) who reflect on the meaning of events unfolding before them.
A tour de force… Years from now we may know the fruit of the trees Vivian Paley and her associates have planted. It will be easy, then, to recognize her former students. When asked to recall their kindergarten experiences, they surely will begin with the words, ‘Once upon a time…’
The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter is, among other things, an original essay on the practice of teaching young children… Vivian Paley’s innovation is her use of children’s stories as a vehicle of instruction… Paley is an artist whose medium is children in the classroom. The end product of her year’s work is a group of children who can live comfortably with themselves and with one another. This group of children will soon scatter. But each child will always carry a bit of Vivian Paley along with him or her, and that is the way in which a gifted teacher’s art lives on.
For those interested in…the education of the spirit, this is finally a heartening and challenging book.
There are many funny moments…[and] an attractive humility in Paley’s work… Anyone who was once a child, and especially those who were once helicopters, will enjoy it.
Humanity, wisdom, and understanding are the words that come to mind when reading Paley’s latest book. She offers a view into the world of children that is respectful of their strengths and complexity… This book shines with an authenticity that comes from the voice of the teacher, not the observer… [It] should be required reading for all those working with children of any age. They and other readers will find it an absorbing and enlightening experience.
- 176 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
- Foreword by Robert Coles
From this author
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