Recently I've been returning to the idea of there being a door in education. It's a door which I truly believe leads us to the magic of children. It's invisible to many and one which when it does come in to view, presents us with a choice. To open it or to never even reach for the handle.
Many in our schools never see the door. Many in our schools having seen it, do their best to ignore it or never try to open it. These are the educators that are fixed and have little perspective beyond children 'coping' and outputting. It always amuses me when I hear adults talk about growth mindsets for children because on the whole it's actually the adults who need this not the children. We give them days and days of worksheets and tiresomeness and then put the emphasis on them to cope with it - we talk about resilience whilst feeding them a diet of tables and chairs, textbook and banality. If only we might reflect on our habitual and recycled teaching practice... If only we could steer our gaze towards quality Early Years practice and begin to see that it needs to come up through our schools rather than the other way round.
So what is the magic of children? What are the conditions needed to reveal the door? It's actually quite simple - it just needs the adult world to open its eyes and look for it...
For me, the magic of children is encapsulated in their ability to see beyond the reality before them - they perceive an 'extraordinary other-ness'. They have a 7th sense, a gift of seeing the world of objects and being able to reinterpret and re-imagine them. In some ways it's akin to the Reggio Emilia idea of the 'language' of children and the very moment that we begin to control and tightly define a child's learning path is the very moment that we are in danger of destroying it.
Children's 7th sense is an incredible tool. It can only emerge when the conditions are created for it to be wielded. This is where we come in as adults. We need to develop a universe which echoes with pulsing concentric circles of these key attributes:
And we can only do this if we have learning environments that offer the opportunity for children to bring themselves into them. Their dreams, their 7th sense. We can't necessarily plan tightly for this. We need to 'loosen up', provide an environment that invites children to explore, imagine and interpret 'from out of themselves'. It is then and only then that the door to the magic of children appears.
And when we see the door, push through it, and take our first few tentative steps into the magic it is then that we begin to discover that it has a power not only within the children but also for us as practitioners. That it presents infinite opportunities to interact and play and dance with them. More importantly, it offers the possibility to move learning forward in a way that is deeply ensconced in emotional connection and above all else joy. It glows with moment after moment that can draw us in, further and deeper. And the further and deeper you go into the magic, the less you want to return to the door that you once stepped through. Instead you find yourself wishing that the adults around you might find the door too and follow.
And maybe that's our task. To try to guide those that cannot see the door to find it. To demonstrate that the magic of children is very real. That real learning can only happen if the 7th sense of children is given space and is embraced. And if those adults upon finding the door are unwilling or unable to step through because it is the unknown, then perhaps we have to momentarily leave them standing there while we dance and dream further and deeper in the hope that the echo of play might reach their ears through the door and encourage them to turn the handle...
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....