Monday, December 28, 2020

Life Itself

They tell us that our schools will fully re-open sometime during the coming year. This is good news for some of the kids and bad for others. For most, it will be a mixed bag.

Most will be thrilled to be back again amongst their peers, to play together, to touch one another, to wrestle and pretend and bicker and create together. Likewise, most, in the strange, unexpected freedom the pandemic gave them, will have forgotten the cruelties of classroom management, the sitting quietly, the arbitrary rules, the adults in charge of everything from when they are to urinate to what they are to think. It's never pretty to train living things in captivity and they return to us having tasted life itself in all it's savor and bitterness.

One thing I can tell you about all the children is that after what they will have survived they are beyond our curriculum and assessment tools. They have seen, done, and felt things we don't understand; that they don't understand and need to explore. They will have become new humans, shaped by historic events in ways that we can't imagine. They will have vital and important stories to tell, art to create, dances to perform, songs to sing, and monuments to build. They are not broken, but they are changed. As a generation, they have been educated by life itself. Please don't listen to those who insist they've "fallen behind." That's utter BS. It's vicious fear mongering. To love the children in your life means to call out that BS, even if it's coming from your child's teachers, your colleagues, the children's parents, or your superiors. It means to honor the humans they have become. 

Their brains and bodies have not been idle. They have been diligently working on living in the real world, their real world. Of course, they don't fully understand it. None of us does. That's how life has always been, of course, but now, after what will have been more than a year of plague, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to look that reality in the face and live up to the promise of what school can be: a place where children are heard, where they are free to ask, and strive to answer, the real questions presented by life itself. That's what makes it education rather than mere schooling.

I know that some of us adults feel that we are simply enduring right now, waiting for life to begin again, but to project that on the children is a mistake. They have all been engaged in the only study there is: life itself. They have learned what they've needed to learn when they've needed to learn it. They are on track. They have vital and important stories to tell, art to create, dances to perform, songs to sing, and monuments to build. They have feelings to explore, experiences to process, and wisdom to convey. That is what school should be, what it should always have been. The children are not behind, they don't need to be fixed or "caught up." Indeed, their studies place them far beyond our assessments and curriculum. As the great John Dewey wrote, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." Our only job is to let them live it.


I'm excited to introduce my brand new 6-part e-course, The Technology of Speaking With Children So They Can Think, in which I pull the curtain back on the magic that comes from treating children like fully formed human beings.. This course is for educators, parents, and anyone else who works with young children. It's the culmination of more than 20 years of research and practice. I've been speaking on this topic around the world for the past decade and know that it can be transformative both for adults and children. For more information and to register, click here. Thank you!

Or maybe they would like one of my books . . . They won't arrive until the New Year, but tell them Teacher Tom says it's a great way to extend the holidays! To order Teacher Tom's First Book or Teacher Tom's Second Book, click here.

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