THE LITTLE THINGS
In the current global situation we now find ourselves in, with all its financial and social turmoil, and all its erosion of ‘normal’, I’ve increasingly begun to focus on the little things for solace.
Although The Unknown has arrived liked an all-consuming ocean, exposing our vulnerabilities and some of our biggest fears, the little things are going to be the reminders, the remnants of joy and hope that lie along the way, wherever this path eventually leads us to.
So, I’m going to look for them in the light between trees and the wind in their branches, in lengthening shadows, in the emerging Spring flowers, in the cathedral of birdsong and the high-overhead cloudscapes, in my children’s voices and their laughter, in the sunrise and the sound of my little dog’s feet on the woodland carpet of dry leaves.
At the heart of all my work with Can I Go And Play Now? there have been three principles for childhood: faith, hope and love. These remain unaltered, in fact they are strengthened and my resolve for all three to authentically come to life is now deepened.
Wherever you are in the world, I trust you are staying safe. Our children need us more than ever. And maybe everything they need from us lies in the little things too ✊🏻🧡
Be safe, stay home and keep playing hard and as hard as you can x
F U N N E L V I S I O N
“And I wasn't worried at all / Sneaking through the back door / No, I wasn't worried at all / Dreams are what you live for...” Tears, The Chameleons
I keep coming back to this diagram from ‘The Green and Black Books’ as I believe it sums up the simple choice we can make within our children’s educational experience.
Childhood has such richness and so many possibilities within its world of magic that when we step into it, when we immerse ourselves into its infinite potential then we have the opportunity to add to children’s sense of self whilst at the same time sprinkling skills over the top of them.
It’s why I’ve become a such a strong advocate of co-playing, the idea that we go on an adventure with children into play, with each point of direct teaching being like a ‘base camp’ of drawing breath, introducing skills for the next leg of the adventure before setting off once more into the magic and mystery of children’s choices and how they see the world.
Learning does not have to be separated from childhood. It is integral, as though both hold hands, fingers interlinked. It’s down then to the choice we make to either hold childhood’s other hand and walk or break the hold and lead children away from their natural programme towards the single vision path of agenda and control - I guess it depends on which way round we see the funnel...
LETTING LIGHT IN
Sitting in my hotel room, I couldn’t help but think how several conditions need to exist in schools and settings if children are to have an experience that it authentically rich with their own imaginations and ‘storytelling’:
• A leadership team that has faith in teachers and children
• A leadership team that understands that interactions and genuine bonds do not require mountains of evidence and observations
• Educators who see that simplicity is key especially in planning and paperwork
• A learning landscape that is open ended and offers children possibilities to follow their own pathways
• A simple rhythm to the day based around the Golden Blend of ‘tight teach’ and ‘open play’
• Children knowing that they are authentically valued and accepted, and that the adults are there to guide and support, not control and ‘get them to do learning’
• A team that has rich dialogue and knows their children, not for Ofsted or any other watchdog, but because they genuinely want to know them
• Children’s next steps are explored and skills are central to practice, rather than timetable or topic
There are others I know, and I’d love to hear your own thoughts. I have a unique opportunity to speak at a Headteacher conference this Thursday to outline what they should be looking for in excellent nursery and Reception practice. Feel free to chip in on the comments below and add to my voice - I intend to highlight childhood as being critical!
Ultimately I guess, it’s about being open to letting the light in, being open to the magic and mystery of children and all its wonderful possibility. And yes, it’s absolutely about love...
S O N G B I R D S
“I've been chasing another horizon / That's the place I can't forget...” On and On, Sea & Cake
The concept of childhood as being like a fragile bird is something that I keep returning to. It’s something that I explore in ‘School and the Magic of Children’ and increasingly I’m seeing that children aren’t the only people full of birdsong. Educators and parents are too, yet often their song is replaced by expectation, demand and the day-to-day, life being funnelled into tighter and tighter circles. In an educational context, we absolutely need teachers to be full of birdsong, creative and joyful with an ability to listen to the echoed song of childhood...
Having read the proposed revised ELGs for the English curriculum, I can’t help think that the Adult World missed the opportunity to show children how they are valued.
Instead it would appear that measurability and accountability got its way and is creating a curriculum of knowledge and whole-schoolism. It’s going to take a real birdsong to emerge and here’s hoping that play isn’t going to get squeezed even more.
Play can still have a life and if you can hear the birdsong within you, let’s continue to advocate childhood and the song of children as widely and loudly as we can... 🧡
S I M P L I C I T Y
“Help me / Find my way from this maze / I can't help myself...” Living In Another World, Talk Talk
There’s a mythology about paperwork and ‘spreadsheetism’ that suggests the more the Adult World scrutinises, and the more it analyses and delves, the more likely it is that children and teachers will ‘perform’ better.
This leads to layers of added complexity, a veneer that focuses educators on outcomes and curriculum delivery rather than skills and childhood. It creates the conditions in which play begins to be steadily eroded, to be replaced by ‘work’ and product.
All too often the Adult World scrutinises play and admonishes it in spite of all its rich potential and its ability to be a dynamic learning process, because the Adult World believes it lacks apparent clarity.
Yet, in the same breath, the Adult World is more than happy to see the shallow ‘clarity’ of holding activities, pre-fixed challenges, page after page of ticked number sentences, children lining up for teacher approval, teaching assistants working with the same children day in day out, worksheets and ‘Golden Time as a reward for good work’ further up its a school ladder.
It does so, because it will always approve of what it already understands. Play makes the Adult World feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, because play lies outside of its scope of understanding, because play has its own vitality, because it is not the ‘control’ passed on from the ghosts of the past.
The Adult World wants children to be busy with production, with assumed and imposed purpose, with output. And to achieve this, it demands planning and topics and timetable and data and monitoring and evidence, but only the evidence that it understands, not the evidence from the simplicity of play or from the dreamscape of children.
And when it can’t ‘see’ what it wants, the Adult World demands the ‘what-are-you-going-to-do-ness’ of interventions and challenge cards and learning intentions, yet further removing children from the centre of their learning and putting them to the side of it.
The complexity of the Adult World jars against the programme of play, its simplicity and, at the same time, its mystery. It demands children to ‘know’ yet closes its own eyes to the ‘unknown’....
The Adult World attempts to bring order to the ‘chaos’ of play. Yet play IS order. It is the Natural Order itself. And so in its attempt to superimpose order over children, the Adult World unwittingly throws children into chaos. It goes up against the ‘flow’, the stream of childhood. And then, in the landscape of disarray, it brings more interventions, more impositions, more ‘listening to children read’, more stasis...
It’s this repetitive cycle, round and round, Adult World order vs Childhood order that erodes the magic of children. It’s why we need to keep advocating play, keep reminding others of just why it is so critical that children experience adventure and head towards the simplicity and away from the ‘magnet’ of over-complexity.
Simplicity is out there and it’s increasingly time to discover it...
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....