Yesterday — and much of the past few weeks, actually — was flooded with meetings. The way meetings go, we talk about things that we would ideally do if we weren’t in meetings. We plan the strategizations and strategize our planning. Even with the best of meetings and the best of meeters, the acts of meeting can be tiring.
So I wasn’t at all surprised when, between meetings, I found myself wandering into the lab school of our early childhood program. This is where they keep the early childhood locked up tight, self-contained and secured, because it’s so precious we don’t want it to leak out. And we don’t want it polluted by the meetings outside. I spent ten minutes, all the time I had between these appointments, looking through the one-way glass and listening in on what was going on. After thirty seconds I had to start writing things down. From the teachers, I heard things like:
Did you flush?
I’m so glad you went!
We’re going to clean up and then we’re going to read a book.
If you can hear me touch your head.
Why do we take naps? [as a discussion prompt]
From children I heard things like:
I want to be in charge of people!
Sophia, your mom’s here! [followed by a chorus of others saying exactly the same thing]
I washed my hands! [also followed by a chorus of others saying exactly the same thing]
Why do we take naps? [as an authentic inquiry]
Throughout it all, every child was smiling, weaving about through the room from one thing to another, interacting with joy throughout. When the book was being read, the whole lot of them were entranced by the pages being held up high, pictures being carouseled around so all could see each piece of the story taking place. (It’s wonderful to see this generation of 4-year-olds still entranced by sketches on paper.) It was the highlight of my day, and it made me start to re-think a proposal I’m considering for a sabbatical. At one point, I was contemplating a stay in a National Park, to contribute to and learn about the system and the land; and I might still do this. But now I’m starting to consider that I could spend a year studying education, teaching, and learning at all levels and in all arenas: a park, a junior high, a university lecture hall, and even a preschool. In the midst of meetings, the 10 minutes of reprieve made me really joyful — like the kids I saw as they were getting ready for nap time, tucking in, then getting up, then scurrying back to their cots as the lights went out and the classical music came on. So, I’m wondering if a year of this in the midst of a busy teaching (and meeting) career might be an appropriate space for reflection. At the very least, I could continue to compile priceless quotations from people in the midst of it all. You don’t get those at meetings.