Monday, July 27, 2020

The Dialog is Continuing

Yesterday, Sally Haughey of Fairy Dust Teaching and I put some finishing touches on this first phase of the The Play First Summit, an online event that has so far drawn together nearly 75,000 people from over 100 countries. Our impetus was the pandemic, this critical moment in the Black Lives Matters movement, this time in history when everything, worldwide, is in flux. As early childhood educators, we've grown accustomed to being left out of the conversation, but as plans and rhetoric began to emerge from policymakers, agencies, and governments, we were alarmed at much of what we heard. And maybe even more alarmed at what we didn't hear: the best and highest interests of young children. As we talked, we realized we ourselves didn't really have any better ideas beyond feelings, hunches and educated guesses, but we were in full agreement that much of what was being discussed were decidedly bad ideas, even dangerous ideas, especially for children and their families.

What we were hearing were debates, which is a process of speaking and responding with the goal of winning the argument. What was needed was something, anything, that would ignite a dialog among the educators and parents of young children in the faith that a genuine process of speaking and (more importantly) listening, is the only way to forge workable solutions to global challenges. And we agreed that it wasn't something that could wait. It needed to happen now. 

Among the many things I love about my partner Sally is that she is a woman of action. Someone needed to step forward. Why not us? She's built a business on producing online teacher education, including courses and conferences, but had never tackled anything like this. And while I've spent the better part of my adult life working with children and their families and speaking at conferences, I barely knew how to make a Zoom call, let alone host a major summit. Still she asked, "Why not us?" 

When we reached out to our 20 presenters, none of them hesitated. Every single person we contacted not only agreed to take part, but shared our sense of urgency. In what was really only a matter of a few days our line-up was set. I can't tell you how grateful I am to them, each contributing not just their knowledge, wisdom, and expertise, but also their own uncertainty, their own questions, and their own concerns.

Sally's Fairy Dust team leapt into action, often working around the clock as they compressed what normally would be 12 months work into a mere three. They too felt the urgency of the moment. Without them, the summit simply could not have happened. They moved mountains. They are mighty. Thank you.

And then there are those tens of thousands of educators and parents from around the world who are also feeling that sense of urgency. From the moment we announced the Play First Summit, we've been overwhelmed in the best way possible. It is incredibly gratifying to know that we're not alone, that indeed, our feelings are shared by everyone who cares about the future of our youngest citizens. It is clear that this summit was necessary. We, the guardians of childhood, have come together, in unity and dialog.

It's not too late to join us right here at the beginning. And this is only the beginning. We didn't solve anything this week, but we did start to talk and listen. Over the course of this week, I'm going to be writing about some of the themes and ideas that have emerged for me over the course of the summit. The dialog is continuing in our Play First Summit Facebook group as well as, we hope, everywhere else guardians assemble. 

I'm reminded of the story Wendy Lee told us about the creation of Te Whariki, New Zealand's beloved early childhood curriculum. It is one of those rare things: a curriculum that nearly everyone impacted by it seems to embrace. Its creation was no accident. As Wendy tells the story it is the product of a process of dialog rather than debate, one in which New Zealanders from every segment of society were invited to take part. This is sort of process for which I'm hoping. Te Whariki, in the Maori language, refers to a woven mat, one created from the many strands of society. It's a mat upon which everyone can stand on behalf of young children and the future of our world. The dialog is continuing. Together we can weave our mat.


Although the summit is over, you can still join the dialog by registering, then sign up for the all-access pass to gain unlimited lifetime access to our conversations with twenty of the world's top early childhood and parenting thought leaders, including Janet Lansbury, Peter Gray, Lisa Murphy, Ijumaa Jordan, Maggie Dent, and Cheng Xuequin (Anji Play). This is not just another series of lectures, but rather a collection of conversations about our challenging times, how they are impacting young children and families, what we can do about it, and how we might seize this moment to transform the early years into what they ought to be for children everywhere. 

Also, 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. 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.

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