Thursday, July 14, 2022

How We Create The Future That We Dream Of

As adults with young children in our lives, we are, in the business of the future. Of course, when we're at our best, we remain firmly in the now with the child before us rather than the imaginary one that will one day exist, but we can't help but anticipate what the future will hold for this or that child. When a child treats another with kindness we magnify it instinctively, perhaps not praising them, but at least making a show of focusing our attention on it because, as we all know, what we focus on grows.

This is what our brains have evolved to do: to magnify or expand whatever it is we focus on. When we focus on strengths, the future will be made from those strengths. When we focus on deficits, that is the future we are creating. The problem is that much of what we've come to regard as schooling comes from the deficit mind-set. Standard schools are designed to not only focus on "fixing" weaknesses, but to, at the same time, squelch any strengths that don't show up in the curriculum or that can't be tested. 

The child who is not up to standards is made to work harder and longer so that they will one day be standard. The child who is gloriously loud is silenced. The child whose dreams of running or climbing or hanging upside down is made to sit still. The child who is passionate about comic book characters or princesses is taught that their interests are secondary, if not a complete waste of time. This is not necessarily what individual educators do, but it is ultimately what our system does. When we look around and despair over the state of things, we are responding to a present created from deficit, of our deficit dreams, that was made inevitable by our focus on how children are failing, not themselves, but the system.

As author and Indigenous educator Monique Gray Smith puts it in our discussion at the upcoming Teacher Tom's Play Summit, "If we pollute and pollute and pollute, we ourselves will be polluted."

When we, however, instead focus on strengths, she tells us, "You see the gifts of the children. You see the ones who are going to be the changers with regard to how we're going to take care of one another's humanity, you see the storytellers, you see the tricksters, you see the nurses, you see the doctors, you see the farmers . . . You see those gifts beginning to emerge." That, I believe, is our job: to seek out those gifts and set the children free to give them to the world. That is how we create the future that we dream of.

"What are the gifts you see your children blessed with?" Monique asks us. That is the question, the only question, that will allow the dreams of our children to come true.


To see my entire interview with Monique Gray Smith, please join us August 13-17 for Teacher Tom's Play Summit. Click here to get your free pass and learn more about all 20 of our incredible sessions with early childhood experts and thought-leaders from around the world. Professional development certificates are available and you can upgrade to unlimited access. Please share this far and wide. Together we can make a better future.

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