Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Teachers Are Much Deeper Than I




I am learning how to be a teacher, a process that has taken 50 years, and will likely take 50 more, but one that I've only consciously been pursuing for the past decade.


Much of what I've learned has come from observing and imitating others. 


Every day, the children who come to play with me, who come to be observed and imitated, show me how to interact with the world. One of the lessons I am finally learning is how to properly interact with the ground. 


As an adult, I tend to think of it as a thing upon which to walk, or perhaps to kneel as I get down to be eye-to-eye with them, but I'm learning from the children that this is really only a superficial understanding of the ground.


I've been sitting on our dusty ground a lot this summer, just as I sat on our damp or muddy ground during the school year, feeling the moisture soak through to my skin. Last week I sat cross-legged with a boy who was just hanging over the seat of a swing, what I call "tummy swinging," dangling his fingers in the wood chips below, studying, studying, studying the ground. Sometimes he merely hung, barely moving, using his toes to steer himself a little closer to this mote or that. Sometimes he used his feet to launch his body forward, letting gravity pull him back, then forth, and back in ever smaller arcs until he was just hanging again, all the while keeping his eyes on the ground, meditating upon it, breathing in the dust he was kicking up, occasionally picking up handfuls and tossing them in front of him as he swung.


A ways off I noticed two other children lying on the ground, on their bellies in the dust, almost wallowing in it. I joined them as well, imitating the voice-less way they wiggled their bodies on the ground, just breathing and smiling and studying things so up-close that I had to remove my glasses to really see what I was looking at.


There is a lot I still need to learn about the ground. My teachers are much deeper than I, but they're gentle and loving and are letting me learn at my own pace.


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1 comment:

@jeannezoo said...

Hello Tom! I am writing this from my cozy couch at home with coffee in hand, not from the dusty outdoor ground, but felt inspired to to respond to you regardless :) Loved your perspective taking on children's relationship with The Ground, the way they move, slide, swing, roll in it every which way.
A 4-yo friend of mine named Steffi jumped off the climbing structure, laid on her back in the bark and yelled "Hey, Everybody! I am dead! Come see!"
Cheers to dirt, cement, bark, rocks, puddles and mud.

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