In February of 2014, Society Life Magazine published a piece I wrote, titled, Silly String: Lessons From A Four Year Old. I came across this the other day as I was updating my vita for an upcoming conference I’m speaking at in February 2016. As a re-read the piece, I realized that these are timely words…words I should re-read each year just to remind myself of the simple things in life and the joy they bring. Here’s the article:
Silly String: Lessons From A Four Year Old
Just four years old, she keeps our administration and teaching staff entertained with her stories and follies. She is loud, self-assured, precocious, tiny, and comfortable in her blue-jeans and a t-shirt every day. She loves playing in the sandbox during recess and usually runs with the boys during their imaginary games of swords, castles and video creatures who come alive. As I often find during my life as an educator, students are great at turning the tables and teaching adults poignant lessons. Over the recent holiday, Jessica (name changed) did that for me.
During practice for our school’s winter program, I happened to watch her come across a string on the gym floor. She held it up, pondered it, and proudly proclaimed to me that it was her string and she was going to floss her teeth with it.
I quickly told her I didn’t think that would be a good idea since the string came from the gym floor and was probably dirty. Redirecting her, I asked, “What else could you do with that string?” For a few minutes she was quiet.
She twirled the string around, watching it move. She threw it up in the air and watched it float to the gym floor. She pulled on it, stepped on it and then proclaimed it was a magical string. I thought to myself, the wonders of such a simple thing as a string, but then quickly reminded myself that it’s not the string–it’s the magic of the child.
Children have a profound way of capturing moments, of appreciating the simplicity and magic in things adults have grown to not see. They are wonderful at taking in the moments, accepting them and savoring them. In today’s society, so much is happening that adults lose sight of those small wonders. There are lots of sayings that encourage us to cherish these moments and yet I don’t know if we ever truly reflect or think about how impactful they are to our lives.
One of my favorite sayings is “Action without reflection is lost learning.” Jessica’s string was like a red bow wrapped around a finger. Like a beacon, it forced me to reflect on simple pleasures. I now mentally remind myself to slow down and pause so I can take in the moments of magic that surround me each and every day. Some days I am successful at this. Other days, I am not.
That moment in the gym also taught me something else–an important lesson. Jessica’s reaction to the string reminded me how important “play” is in a child’s education. Education shouldn’t squash the wonder and playfulness that children naturally have inside of them.
Imagination, the desire to inquire, to play and toss around different ideas while constantly changing and adapting to the environment is something education should embrace. There is no place for stagnant educational lesson plans in schools today.
Ever evolving and changing — just like Jessica’s string–our role as educators is to take basic or complex concepts and make them exciting to our students using wonder and imagination. If a four-year-old can do that with a silly piece of red string, surely our educational system can follow her lead.
I hope that each of you find magic in all the moments that capture your heart!
Sallie Wells, Head of School