Monday, July 09, 2018

"It's Really Easy To Fall Into The Trap"

Woodland Park is a play-based preschool. We enroll children between the ages of two and five, the majority of whom stay with us for two or three years, coming to the same place day-after-day, year-after-year, playing on the same playground, with me as their first and only teacher.

Parents sometimes ask me what we "do" differently to accommodate the various ages. Do we, for instance, introduce more complex subject matter or play with more sophisticated toys or impose greater responsibility as the kids get older. The answer is no, we don't. That doesn't mean that greater complexity, sophistication, and responsibility are not part of what happens, it's just that it isn't something we adults do to the kids. They don't need us for that because they are the ones who bring those things to the table. 

The five-year-olds play with the same cast iron water pump, planks of wood, and wagons as the two-year-olds, but it's how they play with those things that evolves as they grow. In a single day, a stick can go from being something with which a younger child whacks the trunk of a tree, to becoming a pony for an older child to ride around the playground, to serving as a prop for yet an older kid to use in an intricate game of good vs. evil. The stuff doesn't change, it's the children that do, and that's how a play-based curriculum accommodates all comers, whatever their age, whatever their stage.

When I first started teaching, I spent a lot of time hunting around for fresh new ideas for things for the kids to do. I worried they would get bored unless I, the teacher, wasn't constantly injecting new concepts or provocations or invitations or at least re-arranging the furniture. I sometimes thought of myself as a kind of "games master," charged with forever firing their imaginations with this "wow" art project or that "zowie" science demonstration. But the longer I've done this, the more I've come to recognize that, at best, all I was doing was making extra work for myself. 

As Mister Rogers said, "It's really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is more important than what we are. Of course, it's the opposite that's true: What we are ultimately determines what we do!" The longer I've taught, the closer I've come to understanding the great truth that can only be seen by taking this perspective, not just of children, but of everyone. It is, I believe, what stands at the center of a life well-lived.

I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!

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!
Bookmark and Share

No comments: