By Cindy Finch
You were on my mind last summer while I slept in a tent in Northeastern Wyoming. Really, you were, and I’ll tell you why. I awoke to an unidentifiable thumping sound in the campground. Later in the morning I recognized that the source of that strange sound was a young girl kicking a partially inflated ball around the pretty open campground. Kicking and chasing this squishy ball, and then kicking it again.
While I ate breakfast I watched her persistence and seeming pleasure in this activity, and I was amazed at how appealing this activity was with a toy that any of us would consider damaged or broken if we ran across it in our garages. I considered what we (parents and teachers at TCS) hold up as valuable for young children’s lives. I thought of how carefully we purchase materials for children at the school. I thought of how thoughtfully we plan for activities and experiences to provide just the right bit of challenge and opportunity to think and problem solve. I even gave some thought to how much we help children experience a wide range of activities in any given day. And I watched this child kick and run, kick and run.
I thought about the value of vacations with my own children–those experiences when we left behind the good toys and took the things that we could risk losing, breaking, or getting dirty. And, I thought about how that step away from the best toys and our structured family routines gave my children an opportunity to consider themselves and their own capabilities in a new way. I recall my children dirty and euphoric at having discovered something amazing, figuring something out without being led to understanding by an adult, or achieving something that had previously been unattainable to them.
I thought about our goals for children at TCS. I appreciated how they include the happenstance, the unplanned experiences that are a part of every day. I considered how much we expect from our teachers, that they be ready to teach through naturally-occurring conflict and postpone plans to embrace an important moment of spontaneity. I thought about the value of all the moments in each day–the carefully planned and structured and the deeply satisfying self-directed play, and, while both are part of education, how important it is to not over-value the former at the expense of the latter.
As I end my career in early childhood education I am feeling pretty reflective about all of the parents and teachers I’ve known who take seriously the responsibility to help children understand and create meaning from the experiences they have. This is the final time I will blog as Director of The Children’s School. My retirement beckons, and a new Director will step in soon to provide administrative and education leadership to the school community. There will be some change, and there will be much continuity. I am certain of that.
I am also certain of these things: my life, and the lives of my family, have been deeply enriched by my career at TCS. And, finally, know that I will continue to think of you, the families at TCS, no matter where I awake (and the list of interesting places to awake will likely grow) because you are an important part of who I am.
Thanks for that!