Tuesday, April 20, 2021

"I Am . . ."

When we tell a child who they are, they believe us. When we tell them they're brilliant or creative, they tell themselves "I am brilliant and creative," at least until someone else tells them who they are. "You're stupid and lazy." "You are a little squirt." "You are the spitting image of your Aunt Ruth."

"I am stupid and lazy."

"I am a little squirt."

"I am the spitting image of Aunt Ruth."

As we get older, we begin to realize that it's not just the other people who get to tell the story of who we are. We get to tell our own stories. "I am a princess." "I am a fast runner." "I am a hungry beaver." But even as we learn we can tell our own story, the stories that others tell about us never stop also being who we are, although, hopefully, we get better at deciding which of those stores are true and which are illusions. No one ever gets to be entirely, or perhaps even mostly, self-created. Who I am, who you are, is a collaborative project.

This is the theme of Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself, a film made from a one man show that was performed over 500 times on a New York City stage. I've never recommended a film here on these pages, but I can't recommend this one enough. I can't tell you how much I wish I'd seen this show live, but the film, directed by Frank Oz and streaming on Hulu, is still a miraculous experience, and not because it is at one level a kind of magic show. I've now watched it three times, twice alone. The most profound viewing was when I watched it with my wife. It's better with another person sitting beside you. I find myself crying and I don't really know why: it's not sad, or at least not mostly sad. There are plenty of jokes, awe-inspiring moments, and mind-blowing concepts, but I cry, like his live audiences always cry. You see their glistening eyes as the camera pans their faces. Some weep without restraint. Last night, when I watched it for the third time, I teared up before a word had been spoken. But it's not sad. It's beautiful.

And horrible.

And true and false. 

It is both a dog and a wolf.

It's about who we are and also about seeing each other and who they are. And, I think, at bottom it's about the enormous responsibility we have for one another.

DelGaudio is a storyteller, telling his own story, telling our story. As he does we realize we too are storytellers, weaving tales from truth and illusion; made and unmade by ourselves and one another. 

Do yourself a favor and take the time for this remarkable accomplishment. 


There are few things that can improve your life as an early childhood education than improved relations with the parents of the children you teach. As preschool educators, we don't just educate children, but their families as well. For the past 20 years, I've been working in a place that puts the tri-cornered relationship of child-parent-educator at the center, and over that time I've learned a great deal about how to work with families to create the kind of village every child needs and deserves. I'm proud to announce that I've assembled what I've learned into a 6-part e-course called Partnering With Parents in which I share my best thinking on how educators can and should make allies of the parents of the children we teach. (Click this link to register and to learn more.) Register now to receive early bird pricing. Discounts are available for groups.

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