Good to hear from you Paul. I fear that some educators do see themselves as sorters-i won’t even go into the hubris that suggests-and my advice to them is to find something inanimate to amuse yourself with and leave children well enough alone.
I think it is reasonable to suggest that the farther along a path you go in school the less the impact an individual educator has (i would though add that two of the most important educators in my life were university profs, so this is not always the case), but early on the effect can be massive.
For example, in grade 9 i had a math teacher tell me i should give up math because there were no alternate ways to explain a concept. Up until that point i had been an 'A' student. I lost all confidence and stopped asking for help. I muddled my way through my required courses and left math behind as somethin i was not meant to do. This is not an unusual story in education and it says more about my teacher, i think, than it said about me.
I think that your example actually emphasizes what the power of positive, aligned contexts is. It was social and challenging and in a setting that allowed for risk and 'play' quite literally. You don’t have to be a teacher to think in these terms, but if you are a teacher i think that you cannot afford not to. I will bring Emma back into the story — as her parent and someone who knows her and seen her grow i would never presume to determine what she is capable of — she will. (unless a teacher like mine is successful at sorting her and limiting her) Let’s hope for all our children’s sakes that our teachers are more than that.