Friday, December 01, 2023


What other people say about me is none of my business.

It's a rationale that pops up for me when I feel judged by others, when I suspect or know that someone is talking about me behind my back, or, and this is probably the most frequent circumstance, when I feel insecure about the opinions of others.

The truth is that for those of us who are not Taylor Swift or Joe Biden, our fellow humans probably spend insultingly little time thinking about us, let alone judging or gossiping about us. Still, try as we might, it's almost impossible to not, at least at times, fret or wonder about the things being said about us when we're not present. And I suspect that's because, we ourselves, judge others, and at least sometimes, we express those judgments to others.

Judging and gossiping are part of being human. In his book Sapiens, historian Yuval Noah Harari relies on anthropological research to assert that not only is gossiping part of human nature, but that it is one of the key traits that allowed Homo sapiens to evolve from a middle-of-the-food-chain mammal to an apex predator. Gossip, it seems, empowers us to create social bonds, friendships, and community. 

"Social cooperation is our key for survival and reproduction," writes Harari. "It's not enough for individual men and women to know the whereabouts of lions and bison. It's much more important for them to know who in their band hates whom, who is sleeping with whom, who is honest and who is a cheat."

Given the centrality of gossip to our evolution, it might be surprising to consider that most of us, most of the time, are vehement in our disapproval of gossip. Indeed, one of the worst reputations one can have is of being an inveterate gossip. So most of us strive to keep our harshest judgements to ourselves or only express them in the strictest confidence to our best friends, managing our own behavior lest we become, in turn, the subject of judgmental gossip.

My mother used to scold us, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," a worthy aspiration, but hardly possible when gossip is such a central part of what our species is all about. 

In a study out of Japan, researchers found that even children as young as four will adjust their behaviors when presented with the possibility that an observer, even someone they don't know, might gossip about them. Children in the study shared their treats with peers, not just when others were watching, but even when they thought their behavior would be conveyed to a stranger who was not even in the room. However, when the children were assured that there would be no gossiping, they were less likely to share their treats. "These findings," the researchers write, "suggest that 4- and 8-year-old children attempt to manage their reputation when they could be a target of gossip."

Of course, what we mostly despise is malicious gossip. We tend to not object to gossip about, say, the anonymous charitable giving of a neighbor or the romantic birthday gifts exchanged between spouses. Indeed, we might not even label those things as gossip because we tend to narrow our definition of gossip to the spreading of negative or harmful stories, true or not, about others. The habitual spreading this kind of gossip, if left unchecked, has historically lead individuals to be ostracized or worse.

Gossip stands as one of the most powerful mechanisms by which human communities manage themselves. We may bridle at the idea of being controlled in this way. Likewise, most of us are likely uncomfortable with the notion that we control others, not necessarily because we gossip, but because of the possibility that we will gossip. Even very young children seem to understand this: it is part of what makes us human.

I wonder, however, if this social function of gossip is starting to wane in this era of pervasive social media (which is many ways is just a gossip column on steroids) and political leaders who seem to be immune to the feelings of shame that gossip relies upon. In fact, it seems that malicious gossip is too often rewarded. It seems that there are some who have found that gossip benefits them no matter how heinous their behavior; who thrive, indeed, on infamy. I don't know if this is a modern thing or not. I suppose there have always been those who rise to positions of power and prestige due to their reputations for cruelty and debauchery. At the same time, I wonder how much evil we've managed to avert because of the power of gossip.

When our daughter was born, I was instantly aware that I cared deeply about how she would see me. I wanted her to know me as loving, reliable, competent, and kind, even though I often hadn't behaved in those ways. This is what I mean when I say that our children make us better people. At least in my case, I managed my reputation to the point that I am, today, a much more loving, reliable, competent and kind person than I was on the day our daughter was born.  I did it for her, but also for myself.

The American culture is one in which individualism is set on a pedestal. We love the people who don't seem to give a damn what other people think . . . At least until they do or say things that make us wish they would consider the opinions of others. We admire those who blaze their own trails . . . At least until their blaze begins to scorch the earth for others. 

We want our children to grow up to be compassionate, to care for others, and a big part of that is caring about what others think and say about us. By the same token, we don't want our children to be driven by shame or to sacrifice good and unique aspects of who they are in the name of fitting in or getting along. 

This, I think, is the great dance of being human amongst humans. We are the gossiping animal. What others say about me may still be none of my business and that is often exactly the stance to take in the name of mental health, but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter. 


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Four Angry Ship Builders

Charlotte said, "I'm going to build a ship," and got to work arranging the blocks.

Ships have always been a popular way for the kids to use our large wooden blocks. It's a simple build which normally involves arranging the blocks into a deck, flat on the floor. Each time Charlotte would place a block, however, one of her classmates would step on it, which frustrated her. "Hey, I'm building a ship!"

There was a lot of action in the block area and it got so she was chasing someone off her ship every few seconds, to which she responded by upping the intensity of her objections.

It didn't seem like anyone was intentionally provoking Charlotte. The situation was more a function of attempting to work on a solo project in a crowded, active area. After having been reprimanded several times by Charlotte, Henry paused for a moment to survey this corner of the rug, and in doing so he seemed to suddenly see the world from Charlotte's perspective. "I'm going to help build the ship." And with that he began arranging blocks.

Without directly acknowledging Henry, Charlotte began to chase the other kids off, still angrily, "Hey, we're building a ship!"

And Henry took on the tone as well, "Hey, we're building a ship!" Now we had two intense ship builders. 

Soon Audrey joined them, pushing large blocks into place. She said nothing, but wore a fierce, tight-jawed expression as she worked.

"Hey, we're building a ship!" "Hey, that's our ship!"

As the three angry builders made their herky jerky progress, Lilyanna, who had been dancing about the block area to the beat of some internal rhythm, and therefore largely oblivious to the builders, had as a consequence been chased off the burgeoning ship more times than I could count. As she turned a sort of pirouette on the ship deck, the builders said once more, loudly, "Hey, we're building a ship!"

Lilyanna was offended, putting her hands on her hips defiantly, commanding, "Stop!" Saying "stop" forcefully is a technique we teach the children for when someone is hurting them, frightening them, or taking their things. Some kids, however, find it so powerful that they try it out in any circumstance in which they find themselves at odds with others.

This lead to a silent stand-off, with the three builders standing face-to-face with Lilyanna, angry faces all around. Finally, Charlotte said, as if castigating the world, "This is our ship! Mine, Henry's, Audrey's and Lilyanna's!"

Then the four angry ship builders got back to work.


"Teacher Tom, our caped hero of all things righteous in the early childhood world, inspires us to be heroic in our own work with young children, and reminds us that it is the children who are the heroes of the story as they embark on adventures of discovery, wonder, democracy, and play." ~Rusty Keeler
If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Where Our Attention Goes, There Goes Our Life

We call our's the Age of Information, but it would more accurately be called the Age of Attention because when information becomes abundant, attention becomes the scarce resource. But the truth is that human's have long felt that they lived in a time of information overload. The French philosopher RenĂ© Descartes complained in the 17th century, "Even if all knowledge could be found in books, where it is mixed in with so many useless things and confusingly heaped in such large volumes, it would take longer to read those books than we have to live in this life." I imagine that even our most distant ancestors, while star gazing, would sometimes feel overwhelmed by all those celestial bodies up there vying for their attention.

Whatever the case, our attention, being limited and rare, is a valuable thing, yet most of us squander mountains of it over the course of any given day. Social media is a major attention thief for many of us today, but before that it was TV or radio or, as Descarte points out, books.

What we focus on grows; where our attention goes, there goes our life. People who are able to focus well report feeling less fear, frustration, and sadness. They are better able to plan and regulate their impulses. This makes it more likely that they will achieve their goals, which in turn feeds the cycle of feeling less fear, frustration, and sadness.

Hungarian researcher Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi has found that the more time we spend in what he calls "flow activities," the higher our sense of wellbeing and the better we get at focusing our attentions.

Most of us, I hope, know what it feels like to be "in flow." For me it generally shows up when I've undertaken a challenging self-selected project that has personal meaning to me. When I'm in flow, I'm thinking by doing, overcoming obstacles, and stretching myself, at least a little, beyond my comfort zone. Time on a clock may say one thing, but time, while I'm in flow, stands still, I don't find myself checking the clock (a major distraction in the rest of my life), but then, when I look back on what I've done, the time seems to have passed in a flash. That's the nature of flow.

As a play-based educator, I try to make focus my focus, which is to say, I strive to create environments in which I've curated potential distractions. At the end of the day, when someone asks, "How was your day?" I want to be able to honestly reply, "It just flowed." 

When I say I curate the distractions, one of the first things I do, is limit, if not eliminate screen-based technology. This is not because I'm a technophobe, but because I know that the children in my life have plenty of access to these technologies, and their distractions, during the rest of their lives. Indeed, two in five American children live in homes where the television is kept on all or most of the time, a fact that has been linked to attention challenges. In other words, I'm not worried that they will miss out or fall behind when it comes to technology. Yes, they are part of life itself, but they are distractions with an agenda of their own: they seek to command our attention to satisfy their own ends, while flow demands self-motivation.

I likewise seek to minimize the impact of scripted toys, especially those linked to movies or programs, but really anything that "tells" a child how to play with it. A ball or a doll is one thing, but a Paw Patrol play set is quite another. I also hope to reduce the impact of timekeeping distractions by limiting transitions. I even strive to remove myself as a potential distraction to the degree that's possible, by stepping back and avoiding direct instruction or too many questions or just generally inserting myself into the play.

At the end of the day, I want the other children, nature, and unscripted (or open-ended) loose parts to be the primary "distractions" in the environment because, when we put our attention there, I've found that a state of flow is much more likely to emerge, both for individual children and groups. Screens, scripts, and schedules demand our attention, whereas people, plants, and parts spark our curiosity, our education instinct made manifest. Self-motivation emerges which is the impetus for flow.

Our attention is perhaps our most precious possession. When we learn to apply it deliberately, with intent, research tells us that not only are we more satisfied with our lives, we are more creative, more conscientious, more empathetic, and less aggressive. There will always be distractions, there always have been. The key, I think is to pay attention to our attention, value it, choose deliberately, and let it flow.


"I recommend these books to everyone concerned with children and the future of humanity." ~Peter Gray, Ph.D. If you want to see what Dr. Gray is talking about you can find Teacher Tom's First Book and Teacher Tom's Second Book right here

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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

"I'm The Hulk!"

"I'm The Hulk!" 

His parents hadn't taken their three-year-old to see the movie, but the marketing had nevertheless penetrated into his awareness, capturing his imagination, which clearly interpreted The Hulk as an image of power worthy of emulation. Or rather, in this boy's case, embodiment.

"I'm The Hulk!" he would declare as he swaggered through the classroom door each morning, flexing, his legs spread wide, taking up as much room as his tiny body could fill. He insisted on being called, "The Hulk," not Hulk, not The Incredible Hulk or the Green Goliath, and  definitely not the name his parents had given him. Most of the time, The Hulk did the same kinds of things the other kids were doing, albeit punctuated by bodybuilder stances and the regular declaration, "I'm The Hulk!"

This was very early in my teaching career and this boy happened to be the brother of my own daughter's best friend, so I knew this boy quite well, having spent countless hours at his house, dining with him, vacationing with him, and even trick-or-treating with him. Interestingly, he hadn't dressed as The Hulk for Halloween. Similarly, he didn't insist on being called The Hulk in any circumstance other than while at school. His bedroom was full of green merchandise, including a giant pillow fist that made the sound of breaking glass when you punched something with it, but pretending to be The Hulk was apparently reserved for school.

It's estimated that the average adult spends almost half of their waking thoughts reliving memories or planning for the future, with the rest, presumedly, dedicated to the present. I'm unaware of any such estimates regarding three-year-olds, but from what I've observed, and based on the simple fact that they have fewer memories to reflect upon, and less experience upon which to base their anticipation for tomorrow, much more of their conscious thinking time would, by the process of elimination, have to be spent on the present. And for a child like this one, a large chunk of his time in the present, especially in school, was spent pretending. 

As researchers and professor of psychology and philosophy at the University of California, Berkley, Alison Gopnik writes in her book The Gardener and the Carpenter, "By far the most important and interesting problem for young children is figuring out what's going on in other people's minds. Theory of mind, as it's called, is the ability to figure out the desires, perceptions, emotions, and beliefs of other people. It's quite possibly the most important kind of learning people ever do . . . (T)he period from eighteen moths to five years is the great watershed for developing theory of mind . . . Children who pretend more have a distinct advantage in understanding other people."

I often think of this boy who embodied The Hulk. Certainly, he was exploring how it might feel to be a large, physically powerful entity, something that he objectively was not. Sometimes the other children would be frightened of The Hulk, cowering or even crying. When that happened he usually dropped the act for a time, seemingly confused, often insisting softly, "I'm not really The Hulk." Sometimes he would say the tagline, "Hulk smash!" but he was rarely actually violent. Indeed, when the other children would wrestle, he'd stand nearby, flexing, but would decline to actually engage. He loved few things more, however, than another child who would go face-to-face with him, being, counter-factually fierce and powerful and strong. 

"Thinking counterfactually in this way is a tremendously useful skill for adult human beings," writes Gopnik. "It's what we mean when we talk about the power of imagination and creativity. Counterfactual thinking is crucial for learning about the world. In order to learn we need to believe that what we think now could be wrong, and to imagine how the world might be different . . . In order to change the world, we need to imagine that the world could be different, and then actually set about making it that way. In fact, just about everything in the room I'm sitting in -- the woven fabrics, the carpentered chairs, not to mention the electric lights and computers -- is wildly fictional from the perspective of a Pleistocene forager. Our world started out as a counterfactual imaginary vision in an ancestor's mind. One way of thinking about pretend play is that it gives children a safe space to practice higher-order mental skills, just as rough-and-tumble gives baby rats a safe space to practice fighting and hunting, and exploratory play gives baby crows a safe space to practice using sticks."

The Hulk is a young man now. Despite his experience pretending to be The Hulk, he didn't grow into a large, green, be-muscled adult. I know that he tried out football in high school, but found it too much for him. He does, however, write and perform music, fierce powerful music that gets people up on their feet. The kind of music one might imagine The Hulk would make.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Few people are better qualified to support people working in the field of early childhood education than Teacher Tom. This is a book you will want to keep close to your soul." ~Daniel Hodgins, author of Boys: Changing the Classroom, Not the Child, and Get Over It! Relearning Guidance Practices
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Monday, November 27, 2023

All Learning Starts as Sensory Learning

All learning starts as sensory learning. The world penetrates us through our senses, entering into our bodily systems through our eyes, ears, noses, mouths, and fingers. Our sense of proprioception is the one that helps our brains understand where our bodies are in space. Some  include the sense organ in our brains that regulates body temperature. Others estimate that there are as many as two dozen human senses at work.

Whatever the case, our senses take in the world, and then, in collaboration with our brains, we interpret all those photons and waves, those vibrations and molecules, in order to make decisions about how to behave. I know it's more glamorous to assert that we make meaning, but as neuroscientists and author Patrick House writes in his book Nineteen Ways of Looking at Consciousness, "(T)he entire purpose of the brain is to make efficient movement from experience, and everything else, including consciousness, is downstream of these efforts." In other words, the ultimate purpose of consciousness is to control our bodies.

To do this complex thing, we've evolved our senses, all of them, be they 5 or 25, because they make our survival more likely. 

The Age of Zoom meetings was likely always in our future, but the Covid pandemic made it suddenly ubiquitous. It allowed life to go on, but many of us, especially those of us in relationship-based professions like early childhood education, were immediately conscious of the flatness of the experience. The Zoom meeting is perhaps useful and efficient, but as an educational experience, it greatly reduces our sensory access to the world, essentially condensing it to sight and sound. Perhaps this is fine for a self-motivated adult seeking to learn specific new skills or knowledge, but for children still developing their ability to construct the world from sensory input, this amounts to stunting or shutting off access to parts of the world, which means parts of their own brains.

No wonder their minds wander. The smells and tastes and textures, not to mention the outside-the-box 3D world of sights and sounds from the actual world around them was far more compelling.

Standard schooling has long been at war with the evolutionary imperative to learn with all of our senses. The whole notion of children sitting, facing forward, listening and watching, is not unlike a Zoom meeting. When a child attends with their other senses -- noticing the smell of the cafeteria, the texture of the gum stuck to the underside of their desk, the taste of their #2 pencil, the feeling of their body moving through space -- they are said to be "distracted" and are reprimanded for not remaining focused (literally) with their eyes and ears, to the exclusion of all else.

In contrast, most of our play-based preschool programs are designed around the idea of learning through all the senses. We have our sensory tables, for instance, filled with rice or flax seed or water or mud. We scent our play dough, making it both a tactile and olfactory experience. We offer fabrics and tiles and carpet samples, each with their own textures. We have to be careful about what our youngest students have in their hands because we know, as nature intends, that they are liable to put in in their mouths. We taste, touch, see, smell, and listen to everything in our world, exploring it fully because that's the way we've evolved to learn.

A week ago, I returned from a large education conference called EdCrunch that took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The theme of the conference was technology and how it can help make high quality education available to everyone. I had previously taken part in the online version of this conference, which had for 7 years prior to the pandemic been a live event. In the Zoom version I logged in at the designated time, answered a few questions that had been translated from Russian, then logged out. Speaking only of my experience, there is no comparison between being at the live event with 2500 Kazakh educators, ed-tech vendors, and dozens speakers from all over the world. 

The actual presentations tended to be like those in standard schools and imitated by the Zoom meeting, but the real learning, the real experience, took place in the hallways and elevators, over breakfast and coffee, and simply being in this ancient city that most of us had never visited. The 360 degree experience challenged me mentally, emotionally, and physically. I had conversations about AI and robotics and accessibility, but I also found myself discussing international cuisine, history, culture, and had one particularly fascinating discussion about what we miss out on by doing our research via Google rather than the analog way of perusing dusty library stacks seeking out a scientific journal from 1976 that published an article that may or may not be useful for the paper you were writing. Yes, it wasn't as efficient, and there were lots of dead ends, but in the process of thumbing through those periodicals, scanning those microfiche films, and simply stumbling across books that happened to be adjacent to the book you were originally looking for, often resulted in discoveries and epiphanies and divergent thinking, that are simply less accessible in a 2D world.

Although I was there hobnobbing with university professors who have dedicated their lives to technology-supported learning, and CEOs of edtech companies hoping that their innovation will be the Zoom of the future, and even though we were there, ostensibly, to discuss the present and future of technology in education, I didn't talk to a single person who didn't feel that this live experience, this full body experience, was infinitely more valuable and educational that an online event. 

We have not evolved to have five or 25 senses by accident. It's unnatural to reduce learning to only that which enters our bodies through sight and sound. As the late, great Bev Bos would say, "If it hasn't been in the hand and the body, it can't be in the brain." That's how we learn at full-capacity.


"This inspiring book is essential reading for every family choosing a preschool, every teacher working with young children, and every citizen who wonders how we can raise children who will make the world a better place." ~Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here!

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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Friday, November 24, 2023

What if That's What We Did in School?

"(T)o be quite oneself," writes Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen, "one must first waste a little time."

Lately, I've been wondering what schools or education would look like if our goal was not good little workers or master test-takers, but rather to support each child in becoming quite themselves. What if we understood education, not as empty vessels to be filled with the trivia that past generations have deemed essential, but rather to support each fully formed human being, be they two or 92, to know themselves, to discover what makes them come alive, and then to have the skills, aptitudes, and experience go and do it?

As Howard Thurman said, "What the world needs is people who have come alive."

Abraham Maslow, in his famous hierarchy of needs, called it self-actualization, placing it right at the tip-top, our highest calling. What if we, as important adults in the lives of young children, saw our role, not as children's teachers or shapers or guides, but rather as being responsible for ensuring that every child's physiological, safety and security, love and belonging, and self-esteem needs were met so that they could, within the context of a community, focus on their highest calling, which is to find and pursue purpose in their lives.

There would, obviously, be no canned and packaged curriculum for that. 

For our two-year-olds that might mean being free to pursue a series of self-selected purposes for a minute or an hour before moving on to the next. As the renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote, "What I think is a good life is one hero journey after another." For older children those journeys would become longer and deeper as they develop the habit of coming alive through the process of pursuing their quest or question, overcoming difficulties, learning intimately relevant lessons about the world, the other people, and themselves, then returning "home" once more, transformed by the experience. 

And then, once home, before setting out on the next hero journey, it is essential to waste a little time.

"We are so governed by our minds," writes philosopher and publisher Antonia Case, "that we can fool ourselves into believing the self-change comes from thinking about it . . . We fool ourselves into thinking that we just need a little time, some space, and then, once all the receptors are open, the voice within us will tell us the way . . . But this is not how self-change happens. Your footsteps are the road and nothing more." In other words, self-change comes from doing, which is something every young child is born knowing. What if our system of education was built around ensuring that our children don't unlearn this?

In some ways, it's the "wasting a little time" that worries us adults. Most of us, when encountering a clearly purpose-driven child can manage to step back and let them go, even if we have some other curriculum we are meant to march them through. Self-motivation tends to delight us and we tend to give it freer reign. But far fewer of us can step back when a child appears to be purposeless. 

It's interesting in this context to consider that the Greek word for leisure, skhole, is the root for the English word "school." The ancient Greeks felt that it is while in a state of leisure, wasting time, that we most readily encounter, as Case puts it, "unexpected opportunities, unforeseen changes, serendipitous encounters -- these are the moments that can radically alter the trajectory of your life. It's an appealing thought: that you have not yet met the person you will become."

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut asserted, "We're here on this earth to fart around." Cognitive psychologists and others who study this elusive thing called the mind, tell us that much of our thinking takes place in the background, not when we're actively concentrating on the challenges at hand, but rather while goofing off, wasting time, or otherwise engaged in unrelated pursuits. The theory of mind that supposes that knowledge is consciously built from the ground up, like a building, starting with the foundation, then slowly, methodically constructing it an orderly fashion, is in the ashcan of history. Yet our standard schools continue to operate as if everything is merely a foundation for what comes next as we educate the next generation of workers. What we now know is that when humans are learning at full capacity, it is a chaotic, unpredictable process, one that darts and dashes from this to that. At times it seems to grind to a complete halt, before suddenly lurching forward again. Indeed, conscious thought appears to, at times, be more hinderance than not to learning. 

It's while wasting time and farting around that our brains have the leisure to do the real work, the life work, of discovering our purpose, our hero's journey, that thing that makes us come alive for a day, a week, or a lifetime. The world needs more people who have discovered that. What if that's what we did in school?


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Loudest of All is Fear

Author and poet Diane Ackerman writes:

"(I)t probably doesn't matter if we try too hard, are awkward sometimes, care for one another too deeply, are excessively curious about nature, are too open to experience, and enjoy nonstop expense of the senses in an effort to know life intimately and lovingly."

We live in a time of plague, and I don't mean Covid. The virus is called productivity and the disease it causes is an all-consuming sense of guilt or anxiousness whenever we take more than a few moments to remind ourselves that we're alive. Our busy, buzzing minds insist upon reminding us of the tasks undone and challenges ahead, making us perpetually feel as if we're just barely keeping up. It even visits us in our dreams, if we're ever able to go there amidst the tossing and turning. 

Some 2500 years ago, Buddha described our minds as being full of drunken monkeys and the loudest of all is fear, so it's clear that this plague isn't new. And it's a real pity because we've worked so hard over the centuries to protect ourselves from fear. It's unlikely, for instance, that anyone reading this will be eaten by a wild animal. You're probably not going to die in a war or from starvation. Present day challenges notwithstanding, our ability to protect ourselves through medicine has never been better. Yet still the monkeys shriek at us as if it's all a matter of life and death when really it's just about the relentless claims that productivity makes on our every waking moment. The monkey fear that we might fall behind.

Behind what? It's a question we ask about our children and their education. I hear the voices of "experts," echoing through our policymakers, warning us that the kids are really going to have a lot of work to do to catch up. Too many children, even young ones, are hearing the monkey's shriek. Never before have so many children, even young ones, experienced the levels of depression and anxiety we're seeing today. To have experts intentionally stoke the fear-of-falling-behind in parents so that they may, in turn, infect their children is outrageous.

No matter how hard we scramble to keep up, we will always leave things undone and that guilt and anxiety will, in the end, have amounted to a narrowing of what it means to be alive. As we sit down for Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the young children in my life. They are our best teachers. They are not yet infected with the virus of productivity. Gloriously, they try too hard, are awkward, and prone to caring too deeply. They are driven by their excessive curiosity and that opens them to the totality of experience that comes from enjoying a nonstop expense of the senses in the only human project that matters: to know life intimately and lovingly.


"Teacher Tom, our caped hero of all things righteous in the early childhood world, inspires us to be heroic in our own work with young children, and reminds us that it is the children who are the heroes of the story as they embark on adventures of discovery, wonder, democracy, and play." ~Rusty Keeler
If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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