Borrowing the title from an old Dusty Springfield song, which clearly ages me I know, seems to convey my thoughts on this matter in which I write today.
Maybe it’s the ability to observe without an agenda. Maybe it’s the lack of preconceived notions. Maybe it’s watching without judging. Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with age.
Perhaps it’s about raw, authentic, built in curiosity and brilliance manifested in the most extraordinary ways.
I know I say it often but it bears repeating. Learning is not the result of what the teacher does, but how the learner innately interacts with the world around them.
I was in my twenties, thirties and forties while being a mom to four very bright, energetic and curious children who are now grown. This year I reached the noted distinction of having four in their forties. How in the world did that happen so quickly? I watched them learn and grow even though I had somewhat narrow notions of how that was supposed to happen.
Over the years, my experience as a teacher, administrator, and grandparent, gradually shifted my perspective on teaching and learning.
I first was a grandma at forty five and I am still enjoying new little ones being added. Three years ago, Troy arrived and most recently 8 year old Griffin, through the marriage of my second oldest son and his sweet wife, Griff’s mom. My “grand” total so far, is eleven and counting.
When the first ones arrived, I lived across the country and was working full-time which only gave me holidays and spring/summer weeks to visit and spend time with them. Every moment was precious and wonderful memories were made with loads of stories to tell in the years to come.
It was a different kind of grandparenting and took a lot of faith to assure me that regardless of the miles or time lapse in between visits, we still built close relationships. Many grandparents find themselves in this kind of situation. It’s the quality time that counts, even though deep inside we all want more of that.
In those 15 years, I observed the sweet curiosity and innovative energy in each one of those dear grandchildren. It was a delight to watch them, spend time with them, take them on vacations and see them grow.
I remember thinking how brilliant these grands were and still are. I was moved by how they navigated their world as we took them to beaches, oceans, rivers and streams, museums, historic destinations, big cities and little ones, parks and walking trails. We took them to plays, dance performances, theater, and art galleries. We traveled together by plane, car, train, boat, bus, trolley, and horse drawn carriage.
They asked a few questions along the way and were terrific travelers. Our many special photo albums document our adventures.
At sixty-five, Troy arrived twenty years after my first grandchild, Maria. Being retired, I now had more time, closer proximity, and much less energy than I had at forty-five.
I am thrilled that I can be available to watch Troy three days a week. When I used to see the grands at three month intervals, I now see week to week changes and growth. It is so wonderful. I see him discover and learn without any preconceived agenda on my part.
Since I taught in a classroom for many years, and supervised others in this endeavor, I thought there was a “right way” to teach. I thought learning happened because of direct teaching. Perhaps for some it does to a certain extent.
The kind of learning that lasts beyond a test, has much less to do with teaching than it does the curiosity, interest and sense of meaning for the learner. When children are enabled and empowered to choose, investigate, experiment and play with the tools in their environment, deep and lasting learning happens.
Wish it could be that way for all children. Wish teachers and parents understood the power in that kind of learning. It is truly incredible to observe.
I guess I have always been drawn to children. I love their innocence and pure hearts. Wishing it could always be that way in our world. Wishing that hatred of others, disregard for life, and greed were not part of our human existence. None of us starts out that way. It is learned behavior or lack of healthy support in the growing years. My personal faith tells me that it doesn’t have to be that way. I try to live my life by that belief.
A certain quote in the bible seems appropriate here.
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Without much religious commentary or dissection, let’s just assume that the heart of a child is humble and innocent. It is trusting but curious. It is looking for meaning and purpose in life, in it’s own rudimentary way.
How incredibly powerful to watch, participate in and to support the growth of a little one in this life.
I can’t think of a greater privilege or responsibility.