Monday, June 17, 2024

The Story of Right Now

I was sitting on a table near the entry to our playground. It's a spot at the top of the hill that forms our outdoor space and serves as a nice perch from which to observe the entire playground. Usually, I try to just observe, to make a study of my fellow humans.

A two-year-old came up to look at me, perhaps to make a study of me, not smiling, not talking. I smiled at her, but echoed her own wordlessness. She then went to sit on a nearby flight of stairs. I began to tell her story aloud.

"C is sitting on the stairs."

She stood up. I said, "C is standing on the stairs." She sat down. I said, "C is sitting on the stairs." We did this for a few cycles. Soon, as always happens when we start narrating the stories around us, a couple of other kids wanted to also be protagonists in the story of right now.

"Y and S and C are sitting on the stairs."

"Y is standing up. S and C are still sitting."

"Now S and C are standing up."

"Now Y and S and C are all standing up. They are all smiling." The girls turned to one another, smiling.

We did this for awhile, with the girls delighting in the story they were making together. They began to lie down on the stairs. I said, "S is lying on the stairs. Y is lying on the stairs. C is lying on the stairs. All of the girls are lying on the stairs." They giggled together then stood up, then sat down, then lay down once more as I told their story. Others began to join us. Before long we were a story with a half dozen characters and almost as many observers.

Some of them starting running down the hill and back. Others began to sit or lie or stand in other places: on the ground, on the wheelbarrow handles, on a pile of wood chips. I told the story as I saw it unfolding, sticking as strictly as I could to observable facts, describing what their bodies were doing, using their names, and describing their expressions. They sometimes looked at me, but mostly they made studies of one another, their fellow humans.

The profession usually calls it "sportscasting" or "narrating," and I use those terms as well, but most of the time I just think of it as telling the story of the children as they create it. It's not my story or your story; it's our story, and it's the story of right now.


I'm Teacher Tom and this is my podcast . . . In this episode, Dr. Denisha Jones, director of Defending the Early Years and I discuss how schools tend to kill curiosity and how play-centered learning in preschool is the anecdote for all children. As Denisha says, "Play serves diversity because there is no one way to be or learn . . . Play is the embodiment of learning and development coming together." To listen to our full conversation, click here for Teacher Tom's Podcast, or find us wherever you like to download podcasts.

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