“The Best Part of Remote Kindergarten Is Show-and-Tell”
by Rachel Sturges
Slate, January 28, 2021
I write to see if you might be interested in a short essay on Show and Tell in the remote learning environment. I have a kindergartener who spends sometimes over an hour a day on zoom with his class. While most of this time is spent on the development of skills—sounding out words, drawing straight lines, identifying “greater and less than”—his teacher also sets aside two sessions a week for the discursive, messy activity of Show and Tell. Depending on whose turn it is, the class swerves between science and sentimentality, consumerism and the category I like to think of “things to cuddle with.” Time spent sharing combats the intangible quality of the virtual classroom; with each stone dragged from a river bed presented lovingly by my son, he is sharing something real with his classmates, even if they cannot touch it themselves.
My piece might also include a little on the history of Show and Tell. Since the 1950s, teachers have been sounding off for and against. Their arguments reflect the social mores of their times. One writer in 1956 advocated for Show and Tell “based on your father’s occupation.” And if no father was available, he recommended finding an uncle or a neighbor. The middle-school age daughter of a truck driver, for example, might bring in a “spark plug, fuse, clean motor parts.” This is one example of how Show and Tell was meant to bring different kinds of technology into the classroom. In contrast, one 1970s writer championed spontaneous Show and Tell “happenings,” as she called them with a nod to the avant-garde art scene.
In the midst of the pandemic, with even more and more classes going virtual, Show and Tell might make the time spent “together” feel more humane. Sometimes the practice gets to the original Greek meaning of the word technology—an expression of art, skill, or craft, or how something is gained.
I have written about lying to my child about God for Image, after school rituals for Terrain.org, and living in the upstairs bathroom of my parents’ house for Commonweal. As a science writer, I have reported on whale sharks, watching wildlife while social distancing, and kids and climate change for Earth Island Journal.
Thank you so much for your consideration.