Thursday, June 18, 2020

The World Has Changed: We Need Each Other


A number of studies and surveys have shown that American families are using the coronavirus shutdown as an opportunity to re-think the education of their children. A study in my state of Washington found that a full 20 percent of two-income families are considering homeschooling even after the schools reopen, meaning that one partner will not return to work. A national survey found that some 40 percent of parents are looking at alternatives to traditional schools. While these numbers are likely exaggerated by the ongoing fear of infection, there is little doubt that this moment in history has given families cause to re-think their relationship to their children, their work, and education.

Educators have also taken this opportunity to reflect on their pivotal role in society, on past practices and to begin to reconsider how things could and should look going forward. And policymakers have likewise found themselves confronted with the already precarious balance between the economy, schools, and public health, and particularly the essential, although often neglected, role our schools and child cares play in making it all work.

Like a slow-rolling earthquake, everything has been shaken up, causing illness, anxiety, and economic disruption, but also, like in the aftermath of all disasters, no matter how tragic, we have likewise been presented with a worldwide opportunity to create something new and better as we look to the future. There is a breathless push by many to return to "normal": to do whatever we can, as fast as we can, to get back to the way things were way back in January. That's not only unwise, but impossible. The world has changed.

A month or so ago, my friend Sally Haughey from Fairy Dust Teaching and I began discussing these dynamics and found ourselves alarmed at some of the guidance and plans being issued by various governments and supervisory bodies around the world. It was clear that educators, and early childhood educators in particular, were not only being left out of the process, but that little consideration was being given to the lessons we could be learning from this unique moment in time. As we talked to our colleagues around the world, we found that we weren't alone in our thinking that this is a moment in which transformation must happen. That is the genesis of what we are calling The Play First Summit.

Sally is a veteran of online ECE conferences, having been producing them through Fairy Dust for the past decade. I met her several years ago when she approached me about presenting at one of them. Within minutes, like love at first sight, I knew that I'd met a fellow traveler, not only professionally, but personally, and we've been working and playing together ever since.

I'm both humbled and proud that we've managed to pull together a line-up of presenters unlike any I've ever seen at any conference anywhere, online or otherwise, including such thought-leaders as Janet Lansbury, Peter Gray, Lisa Murphy, and Cheng Xuequin, the founder of Anji Play, as well as sixteen other luminaries from ten countries and six continents. I'm pinching myself that so many of the people I most respect in our business have agreed to participate. Indeed, it's a gathering that would likely have been impossible without a global pandemic. 

And did I mention that registration is free? Please click through for more details

I have to confess that this time of social distancing and staying at home has been hard on me. I'm not cut out to be cut off, which is how it has felt these past few months. I hate that I now have the makings of a full-on in-home Zoom meeting studio. Not a day goes by that I don't miss my old life out in the "real" world, engaging with my friends and colleagues, meeting new people, touching them, hugging them, sharing food, sharing space, sharing air. I still hope that I will one day get back to this aspect of my old "normal." I imagine most people feel that way. We've been forced into a process of transformation not of our own choosing, but which will, I'm certain, produce its own blessings. It's with this mentality that Sally and I are approaching The Play First Summit. It's a chance for all of us to get together with committed, dedicated, thoughtful people: to share our experiences, to express our hopes, and to inspire and support one another, parents, and young children through this time of dramatic change. I've never been more aware of the fact that in a very real sense, we're all building our airplanes even as we fly them. It's both exhilarating and terrifying.

I hope you join us. We need each other. Let's begin working together to to find the best way forward for young children and the people who love them. See you at the summit!

******

I'm excited to announce that Teacher Tom's Second Book is now available in the UK, Iceland, and Europe thanks to my friends at Fafunia! It's also available in the US and Canada. We're working to find our distributor for Australia and New Zealand. If you want to go directly to the Fafunia page click here.  And if you missed it, Teacher Tom's First Book is back in print as well.

And finally, this is uncomfortable for me, but I earn most of my income by speaking at education conferences and running in-person workshops. I've had 95 percent of my income wiped out for the next 9 months due to everything being cancelled. I'm hustling to become a new and improved Teacher Tom. I know I'm not the only one living with economic insecurity, but if you like what you read here, please consider hitting the yellow donate button below.


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