Are we allowing children to experience life?
We had a couple of magical moments this week. The teacher was cutting some cellophane into strips for an activity when the cellophane caught the light and made a disco on the ceiling. The children were captivated and started to smile and dance. Some wanted to know how it happened. Witnessing these beautiful, natural moments of curiosity and delight is to me one of the best things about working with young children.
The next day we saw a bee on the slide. I allowed the children to look at it, but reminded them several times not to go too close. Their natural curiosity was too strong, however. One boy insisted that it was a hornet, not a bee. Another said he had never seen a bee and bent towards it to have a closer look. Somebody disturbed the bee and it flew off leaving the children shrieking with excitement.
A little girl grinned at me and said, several times, "it nearly stung us". The fact that the bee could have stung them but didn't seemed to be the greatest delight. The element of risk, of danger, of being more powerful than the danger, that was the joy that I saw in their eyes. It was a new observation for me.
Maybe experience is the best teacher. Formal learning has to link to reality, otherwise where is the meaning in it? Adults probably don't intend to curb children's opportunities to experience these spontaneous moments. We just don't notice them. The only way is to slow down and to start to look for them. We need to look through children's eyes if we want to see them.
They are there in the lights and the shadows, in the sound of the rain, in the ground where the insects live, and in the gardens where fairies hide. It's that feeling of flour on your hands and wind in your hair. It's seeing a rainbow, chasing bubbles, crouching in the dark and climbing the tallest tree.
To have the chance to experience the reality of what is there and to imagine what could be there, to enjoy the thrill of risk and the triumph over danger, to share these experiences with children and see them come alive through being permitted access to them, and to be paid to do this - what a privilege!