Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Teacher Tom's Play Summit is Here: Together, Let's Turn This World Around

It's time to do more than just mark your calendar. I'm giddy to announce that registration for Teacher Tom's Play Summit is officially open!

You probably haven't been counting down to this day like I have, but if you've been awaiting this moment, you can click through right now to get signed up

I can't tell you how proud I am to offer this online conference, June 20-25, entirely for free. It means a lot to me to be able to bring you 26 early childhood and parenting experts from around the world -- from New Zealand to Sweden, from Canada to Greece, from Russia to Australia -- to share an incredibly wide variety of perspectives on education, parenting, and the current state of childhood.

There are several names you're sure to recognize, like children's troubadour Raffi, Ooey Gooey Lady Lisa Murphy, champion of childhood Peter Gray, renowned parenting experts Maggie Dent and Dr. Laura Markham, and the magnificent and profound Akilah Richards. And while I'm grateful and honored that these amazing presenters have joined us, I might be even more excited about this opportunity to introduce you to some less well-known people who have been my teachers over the months and years. Please click through to the registration page if only to take a look at our diverse line-up, guaranteed to make you think, and likely to transform your life and the lives of the children who count on you.

This is more than a summit. It is also a call to action. For decades now, children have been losing their childhoods. Play is being replaced by homework. According to research presented by Peter Gray, we have never before seen such high levels of depression and anxiety among our children, even as young as three-years-old, a trend that can be linked directly to our increased societal focus on soul-crushing, top-down, sit-in-your-seats, academic style education. The pandemic, according to Peter, seems to have resulted in a reduction in childhood mental illness, at least in some populations. Think about that! It took a plague to get us to start allowing some children the opportunity to have the kind of childhood that we once took for granted.

As unschool parent Natalie Pipkin tells us, "We traded in meaningless curriculum for meaningful conversations."

Play-based educator extraordinaire Kisha Reid says, "Let's take over the world!" It's something that many of us who care about young children have been thinking for years. The research is with us, the need is clear, and the moment is now. I, for one, have been waiting my entire professional career for someone to step up to take the lead. As I approach my 60th birthday, it occurs to me that if it's going to happen, maybe we together are the ones the world's children have been waiting for.

It's with this in mind that I invited Raffi to join us. This Grammy-nominated, gold and platinum selling creator of more than 30 albums of songs for children, and writer of some of our most beloved songs, including the classic "Baby Beluga," is on a mission to transform the world by honoring children. This is exactly the kind of inspiration we need in these times.

But change can't happen without all of us.

In creating this summit, my wife Jennifer and I have intentionally gone out of our way to create a multi-perspective event. We have failed, of course, to provide every perspective, that would require eight billion presenters, but we intend it to be the start of an effort to break up the prevailing single perspective too often found in gatherings of early childhood educators and parents.

Denisha Jones, editor of the best-selling Black Lives Matter at Schools (among her other accomplishments), and presenter at the summit, says, "Even some of our developmentally appropriate practices might be grounded in white supremacist notions of what kids should know and be allowed to do."

Our indigenous speakers like Hopi Martin, Brenda Souter, and Jackie Bennet share insights into their cultures -- Ojibwe, Maori, and Australian Aboriginal respectively -- that reveal a deeper understanding of perspective. As Hopi explains it, "The Western way says, 'one-size-fits-all.' The indigenous world view is, 'How to you see it?' We're not after one view. We're after multiple views."

I get shivers realizing that this is what Brenda Souter is talking about when she says, "Our view is to always look to the past to move forward." The multi-perspective way of viewing truth is as old as humankind. Those of us steeped in the singular perspective of mass culture are the historical anomalies.

And what, Jackie Bennet asks us, has this done to our spirit?

Educator Suzanne Axelsson, who is autistic herself, tearfully tells us about the experience of her three autistic children who struggled to navigate a single-perspective Swedish school system. In listening to her vulnerable and candid perspective, we clearly see why it is so important, if we truly care about children, to learn to look at everything from all sides and seek out those who can help us do that.

As we've put together this summit, I've become a changed person. I still have a long way to go, and in spite of being the product of my culture, I'm starting to see that what has sometimes appeared to me as a breaking apart of the world is really a process of the world coming back together around the traditional, multiple-perspective complete truth. It will be a long, always challenging, and sometimes ugly process, but as presenter Caitlyn McCain says, "Close your eyes to activate your imagination." When I do that I imagine a world where truth is built by asking everyone I meet, "How do you see it?" And then listening with an open heart and mind.

I'm inviting your open heart and mind to this free event. Click here to learn more and register. See you there! Together we can turn this world around.


Please join us June 20-25 for Teacher Tom's Play Summit. Click here to get your free pass to all 26 of our incredible sessions. Professional development certificates are available and you can upgrade to unlimited access. Please share this far and wide. Together we can turn this world around!

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