Thursday, 24 June 2010

Overheard: International politics for 9 year olds

Do you ever feel that, as an adult who's been around a while, seen, heard and experienced lots of things already, your brain sometimes feels like it's left on a shelf gathering a layer of dust?

A layer of dust which has been absorbing the impact of some of the sharper nuances of life’s revelations, removing the acute level of shock and curiosity with which your childhood brain recieved new items of information?

Because that's how I felt when I heard the following conversation between Year 5 pupils [9-10 year olds] and their teacher when I worked as a Learning Mentor several years ago.

The teacher had a children's news website up on the interactive whiteboard and was reading aloud various items of interest to the class, when she came across something about the Burmese Democracy party leader Ang Saung Su Chi. [Whose 65th birthday last week has meant she's been much in the news and hence reminded me to share this with you].

Explaining to the children who Suu Kyi was she mentioned the issue of her being under house arrest for much of the last 20 years.

Now, I think I know what house arrest means. You think you know what house arrest means. And we've probably both got a good idea of what it involves, however ....

.... I bet you've never given as much thought as some of Year 5 did as to the level of ramifications this must have had for Suu Kyi.

After having it explained to them that it meant her life was very restricted and could not see her family the children were [rightly] indignant about it. They paused for a moment before asking questions which at the same time voiced their genuine concern, while verbalising some of their own 10 year old priorities.

Two beautifully naive questions in particular have stayed with me all this time:

Q1: Year 5 girl: Miss? .... If she can't leave her house, how does she have her hair cut?

Well, honestly now, can you answer that one? No? Me neither!

And then came my favourite question of the day. Perhaps my favourite question of all time. A question asked by a boy [who always reminded me of Joey from Friends] who was not known for paying attention in class but whose interest and indeed, true concern, had obviously been stirred ....

Q2: Year 5 boy: But Miss ....What does she eat? Like ... bags of crisps? .....Or.... can she have like, a little pie?

Funnily enough the teacher didn't know the answer to that one.

In fact the only thing the teacher did know right then and there was that she, in no uncertain terms, had to avoid making eye-contact with me else we'd have both collapsed into unprofessional belly laughs.
I hope it's given you cause to smile today, I know I've been making up for my in-class restraint ever since through my retelling of that tale to anyone who'd listen in the intervening years and now it's your turn!

But, seriously? You couldn't write a scene like that could you? Although the thought of combining comedy and kids is one never too far from the top of my 'might do one day' list ...

Thanks for reading today, I do hope the laugh was worth your time.
If you'd like to know more about Aung San Suu Kyi then here's her Wikipedia page.

Sadly, it doesn't contain the answers to any of Year 5's burning questions though ....



  1. Yes, it gave me a laugh this morning :)

  2. I love kids' views on life, they cut through the nonsense and get straight to the crux of the problem. Have you seen the BBC series Outnumbered? The questions are exactly the kind of line you'd expect to come trotting out of Ben or Karen's mouths… marvellous!

  3. I'm glad Sian :)

    Gabs - I *love* Outnumbered! I see what you mean about hearing Ben and Karen saying that! Ha!

  4. Oh how funny, kids do come out with some great stuff, I've just been to pick DD from a play day at the school she starts in September & her teacher worked out I was her mum right away, as apparently DD had been telling her all about me dying my hair

  5. I've got a smile across my face too! Love, as ever, you rilluatration too.


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