Monday, May 8, 2017

Schooled by the Ish on a Sunday Afternoon. We Need More Play Time

After 9 hours of reading student papers, I dusted the grading mode off my lap and traveled down the street to visit with friends and colleagues of Stratford: to high five teaching awards, to discuss public schooling, to critically intellectualize the academic profession, and to have an excuse for conversation and Chinese food on a Sunday night.

As we were doing our adult, analytical thing - impassioned with our ideas and thoughts - I suddenly noticed a visitor was upon us. The others didn't seem to catch on right away that the 'Ish was in Storm Trooper headgear, adorned in a construction site vest, and armed with an umbrella to attack any evil entering the house from Nichols Ave. At 3 years old (okay, we can almost say 4) the Ish could care less about whatever nonsense we were talking about because he was in total imagination mode, oblivious to our space or the intentions we had. This was his Pee Wee's playhouse, and we were merely obstacles in the path of his personal joy.

I stopped at that moment and thought, "This is what life should be about. What if more academics had play time for themselves and gave themselves  opportunities to jump into their imaginations?  Could this be a panacea for the headaches that are caused by complex political systems, the realities of massive disparity in the U.S., and the complex, unjust global phenomena that are constantly on our radar?  What if we brought the inner 'Ish out from within, and offered to our students what's most important: creativity, laughing, being imaginative, dreaming, and simply playing with the toys around us?"

I laughed when the 'Ish wondered if the 'Crandalls was going to bring his little brother, "the Chitunga" with him, "because the Chitunga likes to play with me and have fun." Sadly, the 'Ish had to be told that the Crandalls' (the extra 's' is all his) little brother, the Chitunga, was away at school." When I arrived, I told Kris that I was scheduled to call the Chitunga at 5, and was told, "That could go either of two ways. The Ish might love to talk on the phone, or he could cry that the Chitunga was on the phone and not actually in the house."

Lucky for all, there were no tears. Rather, the 'Ish took the phone to his mother's office and proceeded to teach the Chitunga about the importance of "cowabunga" and how, if you touched his brother, Isaiah, in the eyes you could get magical powers.

So, this morning, I've made the executive decision that I will wear more Storm Trooper masks in the future and vow to fight the evil forces that come at me in this world with any umbrella I can find. I need this, especially now, as I didn't meet my grading goals and fell short by a few essays before I went to bed last night. The 'Ish taught me that this is okay, however, because the force will be with me, no matter what, even when I fail to achieve my to-do list. We simply need to move to the drum set, or to the Legos, or onto the computer for some hip-hop beats, or back to a flying aircraft that can carry trucks across the sky. That is the only purpose in life that matters. We should be twirling in the curtains and asking our moms, "Tell me about the time I peed at Thomas Jefferson's house?"

Everything we need to know in life, they say, can be learned in Kindergarten. I argue, however, that the real underpinnings of living a philosophical life arrive way before a child enters school - this is before  creativity and joy are stolen and replaced with formulas and rules. We adults can learn from the 'Ish and should have only one mission: to bring joy and happiness into the world just like him. It's what matters most. Period.

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