Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Greatness Of Children

It's about this time in the school year, just before Spring break, that I typically begin to hit a kind of doldrums, a spell during which I fear we've already done everything there is to be done, that I've already trotted out all my best material. Oh sure, there's always Spring itself with its flowers, seed planting, the return of insects and the like, and yes, I always have the kids upon whose interests and passions any self-respecting teacher in a play-based curriculum relies to lead him. And I know it's a personal problem, one of being a man who's been circling the sun for over a half century. I mean, it's not a problem for the kids to be building with the unit blocks yet again. They're perfectly contented, even excited, by the prospect of making another painting at an easel. Playing with water still holds the same fascination for these 3-year-olds as it did for the 3-year-olds last year and the year before.

It's not that I'm bored, it's rather that I somehow worry, because I'm not a child, that the children will be bored, that they'll arrive in the classroom and sigh in unconscious judgement of me, "Not this again!" But you know what? It's never happened.  Not once has a child arrived at school to express the kind of world weariness that all too often plagues adulthood. This is the greatness of children.

It's this that drives me to rail like I do against the rising tide of rote and routine that so-called education reformers seek to foist upon childhood. This is why I stand against the testers and standardizers, the prophets of rote, the businessmen who want to make a business of growing up. We spend most of our lives, frankly, fighting against the the deadness of routine, against the tedium of commutes and meetings and schedules and doing things we really hate doing. Children are not made for this. Hell, none of us are made for this, yet "for their own good," these fun-stealers are committing their time and treasure to robbing all of us of springtime.

I don't know how other teachers are doing it, administering those tests created in meeting rooms by people who spend their days in front of computers, teaching from textbooks published according to the mandates of the hidebound Texas board of education, being helpless as another half hour of recess is being cut from their day. The kids may not be bored with it yet, of course, because of their greatness, but mark my words, we'll make cynical old farts of them by middle school. Middle schoolers do sigh, "Not this again!" the cry of those who once knew what it meant to be great.

I will not be party to squashing greatness. On the contrary, I'm here to bask in it, to be inspired by it. To learn again how to play, for instance, with some pieces of cardboard that one of our parents couldn't bring herself to throw away. Thank god for her and for the children who know how to be alive. It's here that creativity, indeed our humanity, comes into full bloom. It's from this soil that greatness sprouts.

I proudly and selfishly count on the children each Spring to show me how to live again.

(Sorry, I didn't have time to insert links into this post this morning, but I'll come back this evening and add them.)

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janetlansbury said...

Beautiful Spring message, Tom. Got goosebumps. Thank you and please keep up your inspiring work!

Unknown said...

look at those little devils..
Thanks for sharing!