Friday, December 27, 2013

"Thank You For Teaching Me"

I was talking to Audrey, a two-years-old who has known me her entire life. In fact, she first started coming to Woodland Park in utero with her older sister Ella. She has always treated me as a trusted familiar, comfortable, clambering onto my lap, already an accomplished conversationalist.

We were in the outdoor classroom. I was sitting on the log staircase that leads from the lower sandpit to the upper. Audrey stood beside me. I want you to know that this conversation was broken up constantly by interruptions from other children wanting to get my attention, so you're getting it with those edited out.

Me: "I'm just sitting around."

Audrey, after a pause: "I'm just standing around."

I then went through the laundry list, narrating everything I saw around me: "Mason is digging around," "Liam is balancing around," "River is running around," and so on. Then I blathered out, "I want to learn how to play. Can you teach me?"

Audrey seemed, for once, at a loss for words. She was thinking about the question. I try to stay focused on being silent after I ask young children questions, even semi-serious accidental ones. Unlike most adults, they actually take time to think about their answers and that often means waiting for a response, at least if you want an honest answer. If you're only looking for the "right" answer, it's fairly easy to gently badger a child into it, but I'm not interested in doing that.

Finally, she answered, "You throw things."

"Hey, I'm gonna try that." I picked up a plastic snake that Grace had brought to me. I said, "I'll throw the snake into the bucket." I threw the snake at a bucket several feet away and missed.

"No, Teacher Tom, you have to throw something up."

I picked up a small pine cone, "I could throw this," and proceeded to toss it into the air and catch it. I said, "Look! I caught it!" showing it to her. I did this two more times.

She took the pine cone from me. "No, you have to throw it like this!" She threw the pine cone into the air and let it fall to the ground somewhere behind her.

I asked, "Is that playing?"

Audrey answered, "Yes."

"That was fun. You really know how to play. Who taught you how to play?" 

I waited while she thought. Finally, she shrugged, "Ella taught me."

"Ella knows how to play."


I said, "Thank you for teaching me."

She answered, "Yes."

That's when Liam approached, toy dinosaur in hand, "Let's play a story."

Audrey and I said together, "Okay."

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