I was a preschool teacher and still am at heart. It taught me a lot about life, love, relationships, and development. Most of all, it taught me a lot about myself.
A major takeaway from my experience is how PLAY is powerful and profound when it takes place on its own without a grown-up’s direction. When it comes from that thing inside a child with no help, guidance, or permission. Play feels good.
I always told my students, aka my Earth kids, “Don’t ask permission, just do it! See where it goes, see where it takes you. If you fail, if you make a mistake, learn from it. Let it go. Move on.”
I had a student who loved painting. She chewed on her fingers unless she was painting or creating something. Her fingers were healing these days.
She would arrive, drop her coat, wash her hands faster than the speed of light and, like a magnet, gravitate to painting. She would either work on a prior project or start a new one. Ongoing process not focused on the product. I never asked, “What is that?” I also never praised her. I just let it be and manifest itself.
She didn’t need lectures or instructions. She created without second-guessing or tripping over her own two feet. She moved the colors with whatever she had, used objects, and her creativity within. No dittos, no worksheets, just her intuition. Her head and heart. And, most of all, she didn’t let her head get in the way. So who was I or anyone else to get in her way?
“How did you do that?” Children would ask. She didn’t know how to express how she did that, but she would take the children’s hands and guide them as though they were blind.
One morning, I smiled at her mother—an analyst for the government. Nodding over to her daughter, I said, “She is a natural artist.”
She frowned and asked, “Well, that’s wonderful, but Ms. Jill, let’s be realistic here; what will she be able to do with that?”
“Exactly what she is doing now. Creating.” I answered.
Later on, I reflected on this question. Her mom asked a question that every parent, guardian, or caregiver might ask to protect their children and ensure they have a safe and secure life. A gentle landing, so to speak, into what many call adulting. Safety and security at the cost of risk and adventure.
She was about to turn 6 and go off to Kindergarten. Throughout “schooling,” I believe we should be “teaching” 21st Century Skills. Creativity is one of them. We are born with skills that don’t have to be taught unless they are lost in the sauce or leashed in a cage somewhere.
We applaud children when they write their names, sing their ABCs, say their 123s, add 1+1, know the days of the week, say their thank you and please. But how about that painting that could never be recreated or that impromptu dramatic play scene that could never be re-enacted?
How about living and being in the moment? What about their love of bugs and the earth and how they marvel at the sky? They don’t have to meditate to be in a moment. They study the moon, the sun, and the stars. They study a tree from its roots to crown and laugh as they say, “a treeeee has a crown? Hi King! Hi Queen!”
They study a blade of grass and a grain of dirt. They ask questions. They are curious and confident. They laugh the most, real laughter.
All of that seems to be taught or lectured out of us.
Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.”
Almost all of my earth children could take a paintbrush or their own hands and follow it wherever it goes; even take another set of hands to help show them the way.
They are showing us the way back home.
This is the way of the soul. These are the happy accidents Bob Ross talks about.
Let’s keep making them. Let’s keep walking each other home.