After reading, Vivian Gussin Paley's book, the boy who would be a helicopter, I found it to be a very interesting account of her experiences in teaching young children. In particular, I was really impressed by the way she engaged the children in telling their stories through acting them out, since this not only allowed the children to learn, but also Paley had the chance to learn more about the children through their stories. Of all the children, Paley was primarily focused on a boy named Jason because he was so different than the rest of her children. For example, Jason refused to play with the other children and when Paley tried to get him to join the group his typical response was his helicopter is broken at which point he would rush off to "supposedly' fix it.
What amazed me throughout the book was how Paley continued to encourage Jason to join them in their storytelling and refused to give up on him. In addition, despite Jason's differences Paley never labeled him. Quite honestly, I know teachers who would have labeled or viewed Jason as being a special needs child and wanted him out of their classroom. Yet, Paley was driven to help Jason and he eventually does make tremendous progress in her classroom. Of course, Jason's level of progress would not have occurred without Paley's patience and determination along with a positive learning environment, which sends an important message to teachers. Even at the end of the book, Paley never reveals what Jason's problem is or whether she feels he is in need of some special services. To me, I definitely recommend this book to any educator especially those who work with young children, since I think Paley has a real unique way of working with children and teachers could greatly benefit from reading about her classroom experiences.
December 18, 2002