Friday, July 13, 2012

To Live Is To Play, And To Play Is To Live!

(A while back I posted my Greatest Hits as determined by readership statistics, which then got me thinking about older posts that I wish more people had read, which has now become a sort of irregular series. I didn't sit down to write in verse, but some days that's how the words come out, and while I feel that my brain is a bit too calcified to be a poet on a regular basis, this is sometimes the only way to convey a strong feeling.  When I wrote this post, which was originally published in September 2011 under the title A Place Not For Me, But For You, I was excitedly preparing for the start of our school year in our new place at the Center of the Universe and the prospects of what we would do here filled me up to overflowing. Unfortunately, I inadvertently posted this on the first day of Seattle Public Schools. It ruffled the feathers of a few parents who were were already feeling uncertain about their choice to send their child to our local schools. I don't intend this as a criticism of public schools -- I reserve that for corporate education reformers -- but rather a celebration of our progressive, play-based preschool. I hope that by re-posting it here in the middle of summer it will be read this way.  At the bottom of the post you'll find links to others in this series of posts I wish more people had read.)

I'm grateful I've not taught in a normal school,
Where children sit and follow my rules,
Or are told what to think, what to know, what to be;
A place not for them, but for me.

I've neither the heart nor the head for ending their play,
For making them cram day after day,
For the gnawing inside that knows all they're missing.
It would build up within me; I'd be a radiator hissing.

I'd get my ass fired while lighting those flames.
I'd finally bust out, "My god, this is lame!
Life is big, varied, exciting, and fun!
It's not just something for when the rote is all done!"

I'm not bearing that message: life is a toil.
That play is dessert kept underneath foil
Until you've been sapped of what you had to give
No, to live is to play, and to play is to live!

I'm sorry I boast, because that's what I do.
Underneath, please believe, I celebrate with you.
Because every parent and teacher knows what is true.
If you've not quit already, you'll get your ass fired too.

And then we will learn, really learn through our day.
Our minds free to pursue what to know, and to say.
It's a place, such a place, so old it is new;
A place not for me, but for you.

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1 comment:

Jane said...

Hi Teacher Tom,
I just went to a fantastic Reggio Institute this past weekend at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA. The Italian contingent that presented their many years of work through play was inspiring beyond belief, as is your blog. One of the things I heard (I can't remember which person said this) was that "we don't leave children alone, so we should also not be leaving teachers alone in the classroom." Collaboration, discussion with other adults (team teaching), is what keeps us flexible and allows us to let children to dive deep into their interests. If we, as a society, believed that an early childhood education was truly worthwhile we would not only pay teachers well but allow for constant teamwork amongst the adults (in other words-- there should be at least two teachers working together in every classroom- that way, there is no right answer). I can only see less burnout, happier children and happier adults in the long run (among the gazillion other benefits) if we were to shift our thinking as a culture. Thank you for all you do.