Friday, December 03, 2021

A Massive Battle For The Ages



I was once engaged in a massive battle for the ages, pitting my powers against those of a five-year-old boy.

It began when he declared that he was going to shoot me with his gun that had the "power of elephants."

I countered with the power of love.

He responded with a laser that had the "power of lightening."

I bewildered it with the power of love.

He retrenched with a cannon that was made from the "power of a tsunami."

I absorbed it with the power of love.

He summon up a rocket that was fueled by the "power of a tornado."

I embraced it with the power of love.

He attacked me with a sword forged in the sun, a light saber containing bees, a tank that shot earthquakes and finally a weapon made from all the power in the universe, except, he insisted, love.

When I stuck with love he fell into my arms laughing, not vanquished.

I'm thinking of this boy because his mother reached out to me yesterday. The boy is now a young man. She had tracked me down across the years to tell me that he had shared this story with friends and family around the Thanksgiving table.

******


Just in time for the holidays, even if that gift is for yourself, the full content of Teacher Tom's Play Summit 2021 is once more available for a limited time. This is 24 interviews with early childhood and parenting thought leaders and experts from around the world, including such luminaries as Lisa Murphy, Peter Gray, Maggie Dent, Akilah Richards, and the great children's troubadour Raffi. If you're looking for inspiration, ideas, and a deeper connection with young children, you'll find it here. Professional development certificates are available! Together, as Raffi sings, "Let's turn this world around!" For more information and to purchase your pass, 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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Thursday, December 02, 2021

Teaching Within The Cracks


A reader wrote:

. . . I share the same views as you. However, I struggle actually being able to carry it out fully. How do you give the children all the freedom you do in a center that has "rules" they want all teachers to follow? . . . I would love to get all to truly understand children but I am very outnumbered.

I receive messages like this almost every day. And it's true. We are outnumbered. We are surrounded by a world that neither understands nor respects young children. Oh sure, we find them cute, but even in that, there remains a dismissal of them as fully formed humans. "It is condescending," writes John Holt, "when we respond to qualities that enable us to feel superior to the child," which is how much of society thinks young children, if they think of them at all. And not coincidently, they tend to think the same thing about those of us who have dedicated our lives to caring for them.

But even within our sisterhood, too many of us find it natural to rule. Maybe it's because most of us work in hierarchical systems in which those who have the least to do with the children on a daily basis make the "rules" until classroom teachers find themselves likewise infantilized with very little autonomy, even if they know what is happening to children is wrong. Every study ever done on humans in hierarchy has found that those at the bottom, will, when given the chance, exert command and control when allowed even the slightest opportunity. It is in the nature of hierarchy.

I'm not ascribing evil motives to anyone, but the attitude of noblesse oblige with which so many adults approach children amounts to the same thing. It causes us to believe that we must, in our privilege as adults, wrest their freedom from them and place it in a trust where we manage it for them for a couple decades, holding it over their heads like a sweet carrot, chirping at them that "this is for your own good."

We are truly outnumbered, those of us who understand and respect children enough to entrust them with their own freedom to think, to wonder, to ask and answer their own questions, and discover what it is about the world that makes them come alive.

I've been lucky to have always worked in a cooperative school, a non-hierarchical model, in which the parents and I collaborated in creating our community. Even so, it took many years of trust-building and role modeling to get to get to the point that we could truly step down from our adult pedestals and engage the children as equals for whom we are responsible while not presuming to be their superiors. 

The sad truth is that most teachers are, for today, stuck with systems that simply cannot honor and respect young children. As Ogden Nash wrote, "You can't get there from here." But that doesn't mean that we are helpless. Those of use who "truly understand children" find that our greatest assets are persistence and "teaching within the cracks." I can't tell you how many educators have said those exact words to me -- "teaching within the cracks" -- to describe what they do. Being a great teacher requires, at times, stepping outside the rules because if we are to serve children they need us to be subversive. It's a risk that most of us, at one time or another, must take.

Sadly, we live in a world that neither understands nor respects children (or educators for that matter). Changing that will be the work of generations. Not all of us can work in a cooperative schools, so we each do what we can each day because we love the children in our lives and know that their freedom is theirs. Perhaps one day, we will find the collective courage to stand up together for children, but until then we will teach, subversively, within the cracks.

******


Just in time for the holidays, even if that gift is for yourself, the full content of Teacher Tom's Play Summit 2021 is once more available for a limited time. This is 24 interviews with early childhood and parenting thought leaders and experts from around the world, including such luminaries as Lisa Murphy, Peter Gray, Maggie Dent, Akilah Richards, and the great children's troubadour Raffi. If you're looking for inspiration, ideas, and a deeper connection with young children, you'll find it here. Professional development certificates are available! Together, as Raffi sings, "Let's turn this world around!" For more information and to purchase your pass, 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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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

That Feeling Of Familiarity Is Indistinguishable From The Feeling Of Understanding


Several years ago, a friend involved in the business of what's called "up cycling" wound up with a collection of junk with which even he couldn't figure out what to do, so he passed it all along to the preschool, where, I assured him, the experts would make something of his nothing.

Among the detritus he delivered to our playground was part of the tub assembly of a dismantled washing machine. I only knew what it was because he told me. It was a kind of circular-ish cauldron with a large opening on one side and a smaller one on the other, to which was attached a rubbery skirt. It was large enough to fit two, maybe three, small children depending upon which end you turned up.

As one does, I imaged how the children would react to it. Perhaps they would ask "What is this thing?" For them, I was prepared to answer, "It's a thing you can play with." But since most of the kids were already accustomed to odd things showing up around the place, things with no names and no pre-determined purpose (i.e., loose parts), I knew that most wouldn't bother with adult mediation and simple declare it's name and purpose.

And I was right.

"It looks like a space ship."

"It's a bathtub."

"It's the wheel from a giant machine."

One girl inverted it on the ground and sat inside it with the rubbery bit around her waist like a kind of bodice to declare it her "ball gown."

And it went from there. Over the course of the next few weeks, I spied it being used as a window in a fort, a small boat at sea, a volcano, a bird's nest, and a drum. One group attempted to hang it up as a swing. Another filled it with sand. Yet another arranged sticks in it like flowers in a vase. As I told my friend, "Young children are the ultimate up cyclers."

As humans confronted with a new thing, our first instinct is to try to find an apt metaphor for that thing. It is, in many ways, the story of human development. Our ancient ancestors explained earthquakes, for instance, with the metaphor of giants or gods stomping on the earth. As I mentioned in Monday's post, even our most basic English verb "to be" is ultimately derived from the ancient Sanskrit words for "to grow" and "to breathe," which is to say metaphors for this amazing thing we are still trying to understand -- existence. And this is exactly what children do when confronted with new things, like this tub. They try, individually and collectively, to arrive at a metaphor for the new thing by substituting something more familiar until they find that feeling of familiarity.

That feeling of familiarity is indistinguishable from the feeling of understanding.

Even such seemingly only-the-facts things like science and math are conducted and understood through metaphor. A thunderstorm understood as friction and sparks and vacuums, of air smashing together to create noise, isn't actually those things, but rather something like those things. Indeed, the entire scientific process is one of finding better and better metaphors that approach, but never quite reach, full understanding. Likewise, those numerals we use for ciphering are metaphors of familiarity that allow us to better understand.

If the goal of education is understanding (rather than merely correct answers), then play with loose parts in their broadest sense, without adults constantly trying to inject their own metaphors into it, is the gold standard. It is that feeling of understanding we are after and that only comes through thinking about new experiences through the filter of metaphor until we find one that feels right, or at least partly right, at least for now. And then, as we play, we discover new and better metaphors, additional and supplanting metaphors, that lead us farther and father along our lifelong journey of understanding. 

******

Just in time for the holidays, even if that gift is for yourself, the full content of Teacher Tom's Play Summit 2021 is once more available for a limited time. This is 24 interviews with early childhood and parenting thought leaders and experts from around the world, including such luminaries as Lisa Murphy, Peter Gray, Maggie Dent, Akilah Richards, and the great children's troubadour Raffi. If you're looking for inspiration, ideas, and a deeper connection with young children, you'll find it here. Professional development certificates are available! Together, as Raffi sings, "Let's turn this world around!" For more information and to purchase your pass, 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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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Our Disconnection Makes Us Forget


During the pandemic, my wife and I have taken to referring to our dog Stella as our "emotional support animal." These have been the best of times for her. The three of us have pretty much been 24-hour-a-day companions for months now. When tensions have risen, as they do amongst humans, Stella has gone into action, providing expert emotional support by making herself available for connection, insisting upon it at times, refusing to be rebuffed because what she has to offer by way of emotional support is too important to be left to the moods of the humans. 

And, time and gain, Stella is always proven correct: when I give in and take her for a walk or play ball or massage her belly, I do feel buoyed. My troubles might still be there, but they seem a little bit smaller. She reminds me to apologize, to repair the damage I've done, and to re-connect. 

That's some pretty expert emotional support.

We all know the importance of connection, but Stella lives it. Wherever my wife and I are in the house, she positions herself at a physical halfway point between the two of us, ready on a moments notice. When we sit down to eat, she sprawls out under the table with parts of her body touching both of us. When we have dinner guests, she makes sure she is touching all of them as well. She reaches out to us several times a day, just to remind us that we're connected, forcing us to take a break from our disconnection, and to live a little. She is telling us, clearly, "This is what it's all about, you guys."

Am I anthropomorphizing my dog? Probably, but that doesn't diminish the deep wisdom in the emotional support she provides us. And what does she ask for in return? For us to connect right back with her.

Maybe you're laughing at me, but I think I'm safe in saying that most mental healthcare professionals would agree with Stella that connection comes before anything else. 

In the aftermath of the Teacher Tom's Play Summit, I finally had a moment to pick up the much praised bestseller Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Her narrative opens with her own childhood and ancestral stories about wild strawberries. I'm transported back to my own childhood where I find a similar connection to the pine trees that towered over my South Carolina neighborhood. They provided shade, needles, bark and pine cones. We climbed them, tied things to them, and hid behind them. Birds, squirrels, and insects lived in them. Periodically, a branch would fall or be cut and we would get a closer look at life in the canopy. Over the course of weeks, we would play with that branch, building with it, harvesting from it, turning it into wands or weapons. When the winds blew, the pines talked to me, although not as loudly as the chestnuts and cottonwoods I would later know in my life. When it rained, they protected me, although not as well as the cedars and firs amongst whom I live today. When they were wounded, they oozed sticky sap, a scent so heady it made me light-headed.

Those trees were my teachers and, like with Stella, they called upon me to connect by speaking every language except the human one. Indeed, it seems that of all the things that live on Mother Earth, only humans need to remember to connect. It hasn't always been this way, but as we've moved increasingly indoors, as we've told ourselves the divisive fictions about money, commodities, and property, about competition, poverty, and war, we've forgotten the source of all knowledge. 

This is indigenous wisdom, this imperative to connect, with plants and animals, with rocks and soil and the air we breath, with water and fire. When I ignore Stella, when I'm too wrapped up in my disconnection to heed her, she persists. My disconnection stories try to conclude that she is simply being a pest, that she is bored, that she is trying to take something from me, but that's a false narrative. The real story, the story of connection, is that like the rest of nature, she is offering me a gift. She is offering me medicine. Humans, despite our self-aggrandizing narratives are emphatically not the center of creation, we are not the apex. Stella sees that we are in peril, playing on the ledge of disconnection, and she's there to pull us back before we plummet to our certain demise. 

I'm not writing in metaphors here. These are lessons I've learned from Stella, pine trees, and the rest of the natural world. This is the real education. It is connection, not data, not information, not a lesson plan or curriculum. Our disconnection makes us forget. It makes us, frankly, stupid. Connection is the only way that learning ever happens. In our hubris, we've forgotten how to learn from nature, replacing it with the pathetic story of direct instruction, as if our language alone can contain knowledge, that we can somehow measure it with numbers, that bigger, stronger, older people get to tell the smaller, weaker, younger people what to do and what to know. Nature knows what we've forgotten, that all knowledge, all wisdom, all learning, comes through connection. That is how the wild strawberries and pine trees teach us.

When we walk our neighborhood, Stella dives into it with all of her senses, following trails of scent I can't smell and reacting to sounds I can't hear, connecting, fully, and according to her curiosity. Connecting, connecting, connecting. It's what I see the free children do as well, those younger humans who've not yet learned our ugly stories about disconnection and division. They heed the call of Mother Earth: embrace and be embraced.

Dr. Laura Markham said to us at the summit, "Humanity's engaged this big experiment where we remember we're all connected." It's a statement of persistent optimism, one that for me echoes that of Mother Nature. When we finally remember, we will find that the wild strawberries are right, that the pine trees are right, that Stella is right. 

******

The live portion of Teacher Tom's Play Summit is over, but it's still not too late to join Laura Markham, Lisa Murphy, Akilah Richards, Maggie Dent, Raffi, Suzanne Axelsson, Peter Gray and the rest of us. What if the whole world understood the power of trusting children with the freedom to play, to explore their world, to ask and answer their own questions? What if everyone respected their right to learn in their own way, on their own time? What if we remembered that children must have their childhoods and that means playing, and lots of it? Every one of these people are professionals who have placed children first. You will walk away from this event transformed, informed, challenged, and inspired to create a world that respects children and sets them free to learn and grow. Together we can, as presenter Raffi sings, "Turn this world around!" To learn more and to purchase your pass, 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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Monday, November 29, 2021

A Restless Sea Of Metaphor



Starlings are often called "the mynah birds of the north" for their ability to mimic not just other bird songs, but other animals, including humans. They have even been known to re-create the sounds of telephones, squeaky hinges, sirens, doorbells, and other common sounds they pick up from their environment. No one really knows why they've developed this penchant, although it's been speculated that it allows them to deceive potential predators. I can imagine that a hawk, for instance, might have second thoughts when its intended lunch barks like a junkyard dog. 

Whatever the case, starlings and other birds that tend toward mimicry, are constantly adding to their repertoire from their environment as well as learning from other starlings, passing down certain sounds from generation to generation, often continuing to reproduce sounds from bygone eras long after that sound has disappeared from their habitat. This means that a population of starlings that has existed in a single place for generations has become a sort of data storage system for elements of sound, perhaps even entire soundscapes, from earlier centuries.

I was thinking about this as we sat down to our Thanksgiving dinner last week. 

We tend to think of human language as simply a means of communication, but just as starlings can keep the past alive through their songs, we too, in a way, do the same, even when we are completely unaware of it. For instance, nearly every word we use, can be traced back to a metaphor. Someone sat at the "head" of the table. It wasn't, of course, an actual head, but a metaphorical one that derives from a time when there was no other way to describe that seat of honor. It's "like" a head, we thought, and so it entered the language, subtly shaping generations of humans as we gather together for a repast. Likewise, the chair I sat in had "arms" and "legs." We gathered together to be "in touch" with one another. Some of us had to "handle" a difficult relative or conversation. 

But it's not just when we refer to physical objects that we reveal our linguistic DNA. Our verb "to be" comes from the ancient Sanskrit word blu, which means "to grow" while the English forms of "am" and "is" have evolved from the same root as the Sanskrit asme, which means "to breathe." Even our fundamental word to describe existence hearkens back to when we had no other word for it so we resorted to a metaphor that reminds us to grow and breathe.

Our language derives from our collective experience as a species and has evolved as more than mere birdsong, functioning as a kind of organ of perception, a creator of reality, and a record of our evolution as conscious animals.

As adults, most of us, however, use our language unconsciously and because of this, I think, we often have a tendency to re-create a familiar reality, especially at traditional gatherings like Thanksgiving. We do it without thinking. We do it because this is the way it's always been done. And even when we strive to break away from the old patterns the ancient metaphors steer us back to the familiar.

Our children, however, do not yet know the metaphors we know. They are still closer to the creative potential of language which is why, if we can remember to shut up and listen, we find ourselves so delighted, often profoundly so, by the things they express as they seek to wrap language around experience and vice versa. 

In our current rush to make our children literate, however, we teach them at younger and younger ages that language is a dead thing, mere communication confined by immutable rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. We rob them of something essential when we compel them to, essentially, shut up and listen. It's a robbery that impoverishes all of us. Children are there to make the familiar once more unfamiliar, but the only way this happens is if language precedes literacy. Literacy is a mere workman's plow that bends our backs toward utilitarian ends, while language is a growing, breathing thing, a restless sea of metaphor, a cacophony of birdsong, that is central to what it means to be human. 


******


Just in time for the holidays, even if that gift is for yourself, the full content of Teacher Tom's Play Summit 2021 is once more available for a limited time. This is 24 interviews with early childhood and parenting thought leaders and experts from around the world, including such luminaries as Lisa Murphy, Peter Gray, Maggie Dent, Akilah Richards, and the great children's troubadour Raffi. If you're looking for inspiration, ideas, and a deeper connection with young children, you'll find it here. Professional development certificates are available! Together, as Raffi sings, "Let's turn this world around!" For more information and to purchase your pass, 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 26, 2021

Is It About Learning Or The Adult Need To Control Children?


Growing up, I'd get to see my Grandma Magee a couple of times a year. Sometimes we would go to visit her in Nebraska where she was a house mother at the Omaha Home for Boys. Sometimes she would come to visit us. She had a lot of grandkids spread out all over the country and my brother and I were the youngest. One day, we were shopping at Sears when I was around eight-years-old. As we passed the record department she suddenly asked me if I liked music. It was an odd question. Who didn't like music? So I answered that, I did, so she offered to buy me an album.

Now I owned a few small 45's at the time, kids' records featuring kids' songs from performers like Danny Kaye. This record department, however, was a real, adult record department, selling full-sized LPs. I knew nothing about this sort of music. I imagine grandma had scored major points with my older cousins by offering to buy albums. I imagine they had chosen The Beatles or Aretha Franklin or Ray Charles, but I had no idea who these people were. As a flipped through the racks, however, I finally spied a name I recognized: Johnny Cash. I'm not saying I had any notion of his music, but I was aware of him because I'd seen the commercial on TV for his namesake television show. Of all the albums in all the world, I chose Johnny Cash Live at San Quentin, a prison in Northern California, something I didn't know until I got it home and listened to it.

It was a bit of a shock to me. Up until that recording, I'd pretty much dismissed criminals as criminals. There were good guys and bad guys, but here was this man, Johnny Cash, who seemed to think they were actual human beings deserving of, at least, a good time, even if they were doing hard time. I couldn't believe the song he wrote especially for this concert, San Quentin, in which he, to the the cheers of these imprisoned men, channeled their anger and sadness with lines like, "San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell!" Over the course of the next couple years I listened to that album over and over until I not only knew every lyric, but also all the banter between the songs. I was young enough that I didn't even yet know what the bleeps were there to hide, but there was something essential about his message that has stuck with me until today.

"They say old Johnny Cash works good under pressure . . . But put the screws on me, and I'll screw right out from under you . . . I'm tired of all that (bleep) . . . I'll tell you what, the show is being recorded and televised in England . . . They say, you gotta do this song, you gotta do that song, you know, you gotta stand like this, you gotta act like this, and I just don't get it, man, you know? I'm here, I'm here to do what you want me to do and what I want to do, all right?"

I've only recently realized that this is what I really wanted to be when I grew up. And I've only even more recently come to understand that this is the kind of preschool teacher I've tried to be.


In my conversation with early childhood education advocate, author, and Teacher Tom's Play Summit presenter Lisa Murphy, we talked about the "the adult need to control the children." As Lisa says, "I think if everybody spent a little bit of time reflecting on that, quite honestly, we'd never have to go to any behavior modification workshop or seminar or Zoom meeting ever, ever, ever again . . . You don't need 99 rules if you're not trying to control the children."

I found myself reflecting on old Johnny Cash when Lisa told me about her first teaching job: 

"The first women that I was paired up with was a total control freak. I was new and she told me to get with the program . . . she scared me. She put me in timeout one time and told me I needed to think about what just happened. I got with the program . . . I drifted away from what I knew was best practice, even though I didn't yet have the language to articulate it . . . I had one tool in my metaphorical teacher tool belt, and it was "Kids learn through play." This woman I'm paired up with was like, "We don't got time for that." She threw my tool in the trash . . . So I fell into the abyss with the control-freak, poopy-face, laminated ladies." 

That last bit is the part that would have been covered under a bleep on my Johnny Cash album.

Fortunately, a woman named Cindy Scrimsher became my co-teacher, and she led me back to what I knew first. And no joke, man . . . I didn't know at the time she was hired to teach me . . . She walked in. I'm wrangling up these three-year-olds because nobody's going outside until I get a straight line. I'm going to wait here all day, and you're only wasting your own time. She (Cindy) literally walked up to me and said, "What are you waiting for?" I'm like, "Who are you?" I'm like, "I'm waiting for these kids to line up because nobody's going outside till I get a straight line. I could wait here all day . . . And she said, "What are they? Three?" In my head, I'm like, "Who are you? What are you doing? . . .  (She asked) "Why don't you just open the door and let them go?" I swear to God, I stood there for six minutes trying to figure out a reason why I shouldn't just open the door and let them go."

No one responds well to being told what to do, not prisoners at San Quentin and not children in preschool. We are the adults and they are children, so of course there are times, such as when safety is at stake, when we might have to put our foot down, but straight lines? Crisscross applesauce? Eyes on me? Zip your lips? That "crap" (to once more quote Lisa) isn't about learning, it isn't about play, it is about the adult need to control. When we step back and think about what we are really doing it almost always comes down to the fact that we don't have any reason beyond our urge to control children for not just opening the door and letting them go. 

When we try to put the screws to children, they always seek to screw right out from under us. It's the natural, healthy response to being controlled. It's the urge to be free and we fight against it at the peril of everyone involved. The secret to good teaching, says Lisa, is to control the environment instead of the children. When we do that, we become free as well, free enough to say to these free children, "I'm here to do what you want me to do and what I want to do, all right?"

******

To watch my entire interview with Lisa, along with those with 26 other early childhood and parenting experts and thought leaders from around the world, please join us for our reprise of Teacher Tom's Play Summit. What if the whole world understood the power of trusting children with the freedom to play, to explore their world, to ask and answer their own questions? What if everyone respected their right to learn in their own way, on their own time? What if we remembered that children must have their childhoods and that means playing, and lots of it? Every one of these the presenters are professionals who have placed children first. You will walk away from transformed, informed, challenged, and inspired to create a world that respects children and sets them free to learn and grow. Professional development certificates available. Together we can, as presenter Raffi sings, "Turn this world around!" For more information and to purchase your pass, 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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Thursday, November 25, 2021

I'm Grateful For Young Children: They Are Our Best Teachers



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, especially now with our schools reduced to video conference calls. 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. The Covid pandemic probably isn't helping. To have experts intentionally stoke the fear-of-falling-behind in parents so that they may 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, whatever that means this year, 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.

******

Just in time for holiday shopping, even if that gift is for yourself, the full content of Teacher Tom's Play Summit 2021 is once more available for a limited time. This is 24 interviews with early childhood and parenting thought leaders and experts from around the world, including such luminaries as Lisa Murphy, Peter Gray, Maggie Dent, Akilah Richards, and the great children's troubadour Raffi. If you're looking for inspiration, ideas, and a deeper connection with young children, you'll find it here. Professional development certificates are available! Together, as Raffi sings, "Let's turn this world around!" For more information and to purchase your pass, 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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