A vent on children’s day (or the day after)

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I don’t know if you have read the poem, The Hundred Languages of children by Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lella Gandini), Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Here it is:

The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

And it is so true…if you look at children before we truly throttle them with our sense of socialization; they are artists, singers, performers in the purest sense. They express themselves through songs and dance and words and pictures and gestures and silence.  And then it is time to box them…to put them into cookie cutter molds that they dare not tumble out of.  We do exactly what the poem accuses us of doing…We take away their different ways of being and have them conform to our one expected way of life.

It probably hits me the most when I visit classrooms…the very place that they come in to bloom and grow and become dreamers and thinkers…it is often this very place that snuffs out the burning embers of creativity, that shuts the doors of imagination and turns the little artists into mindless automatons. They come in ready to reach for the stars but all we have them do is sit down with their arms crossed and their fingers on their lips. They are issued instructions and reprimanded for the scrawls their fingers struggle to produce – fingers that should instead be molding a ball of dough or sliding through paint or sand. They get rapped on the head for looking out of the window at frog in the corridor in stead of at the blackboard where the teacher mindless repeats the same sentence ten times before having the children do the same. Bodies that should be running free or swinging from branches are crammed into tiny hard wooden benches and told to stay still. And the bodies rebel, legs swing under desks, finger tap tap a tune with a pencil on the table, eyes peer out of the gloomy classroom and minds take flights of fantasy to happier places and times. But only for a while as a stern look, a harsh word or a rough tap brings them back to doing what they are expected to…NOTHING.

And so, on this day when we are celebrating children, I am putting out a plea to teachers and school principals. Whether you are working at a high end school or a budget school or a government institution…You have a very very important job to do. You have been entrusted with possibly the most precious resource this world has to offer…you have been entrusted with innocence and purity and the most beautiful human beings. Each one of them is different and brings his share of magic into your world. Recognize his beauty and respect him for who he is. Don’t smother his passion to learn with rote memorization and harsh words and a tight box that you want to fit him into…he wasn’t made to fit in there at all. I know you try hard…maybe it is time to try differently.

Let’s all come together and let our children reclaim their hundred languages…reclaim themselves and truly reach for the stars they were meant to reach for!

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About myfourboysandme

Mom - a word that defines me... I smell of oats, johnson's and home baked cookies I am pink, purple, green and orange and so is the floor my kids color on. Flour on my clothes and a brush in my pocket, my glasses bent out of shape and smudged with tiny fingerprints. I can't remember the date but i know almost 40 pictures books by heart. I wake up humming 'wheels on the bus'and i talk with my fingers and eyes and mouth. My bag carries band aids, napkins, wipes, crayons, papers, candy and sometimes my wallet. I know all the parks and very few of the restaurants in my neighborhood. Most of my shopping is diapers, books and paints My phd certificate lies in a roll, the frame now contains an abstract work of art by two year olds and i am prouder of that piece of paper. mom - a word that defines me!

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