Saturday, June 19, 2021

The World Needs Better Ideas

There are a pair of concepts that have tried to use as North Stars as I've worked on Teacher Tom's Play Summit that begins tomorrow and runs through Friday. (If you haven't already, get your free pass right now so you don't miss a single session!)

The first of these came from my friend and summit presenter, Suzanne Axelsson, an ECE pedagogical consultant, educator, and founder of the Interaction Imagination blog. 

We were talking about engaging in group discussions with young children. Suzanne said, "I think very often there's a lot of focus on, 'How do we get the quiet children to talk?' But there's not enough focus on how we get these talkative children to not talk so much . . . They have amazing things to say, but by virtue of their amazingness, they prevent other children from contributing." Suzanne said she puts "a lot of focus on how we listened and the value of listening. And the value of everyone contributing, because everyone has ideas. And someone else's idea could mean that your own idea grows better. So if we don't give others time to share their ideas, then we might be preventing own idea from fully blooming."

The second concept is a metaphor shared with me by early childhood education consultant and educator Hopi Martin: "So if you think of standing in a circle around a fire. Every single person sees that fire a little bit differently, not only from their ancestors' point of view or their family's teachings or whatever, but just because they're at a different angle at the fire. So that circle teaching is what we're after . . . multiple views . . . Elder Albert Marshall calls it Multiple-Eyed Seeing. You may have heard of Two-Eyed seeing, which is trying to see both the Western and indigenous worldviews. But what I'm really interested in, after you've got that, is the many-eyed seeing."

This is something I needed to hear. I am a white, middle-aged, middle class American male. The society in which I've lived most of my life is based upon listening to people like me. I've never had to worry about being heard. Even when I was one of those quiet kids, I've been listened to because my thoughts and ideas have been sought out. The world needs better ideas.

With Suzanne's words in my ear and Hopi's metaphor in front of me, I've strived as I've worked on this summit to connect with those less heard voices, multiple voices. I did so out of a sense of fairness, yes, but also, quite selfishly, because I want my own ideas to grow better.

And they have. Putting together this summit has been one of the peak learning experiences of my life. Indeed, my own ideas have grown so much bigger and so much better that I can't call them my ideas any longer: they are our ideas, which is what happens when we listen to everyone gathered around the fire. Truth only exists through multiple-eyes. And it can only be understood through listening.

Please come stand around the fire with us.


To watch my entire interview with Suzanne and Hopi, please join us at Teacher Tom's Play Summit. What if the whole world understood the power of trusting children with the freedom to play, to explore their world, to ask and answer their own questions? What if everyone respected their right to learn in their own way, on their own time? What if we remembered that children must have their childhoods and that means playing, and lots of it? Teacher Tom's Play Summit  is a free, online conference that takes place June 20-25. Click here to get your free pass to all 24 of our incredible sessions with early childhood and parenting experts and thought leaders from around the world. Every one of these people are professionals who have placed children first. You will walk away from this event transformed, informed, challenged, and inspired to create a world that respects children and sets them free to learn and grow. Together we can, as presenter Raffi sings, "Turn this world around!"

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