2015 looms just hours away! Our world is confusing right now, no doubt. Our young people seem baffled about their futures, so many contemplating work possibilities while still seeking balance with free time and fun. Uncertainty prevails.
It seems similar with my own cohorts too! Many of my friends are approaching ages of equanimity and awe. Change is imminent and possibilities are grand. I am at a stage of my life where everything I’ve always dreamed of is achievable.
My word for 2015 is awesome! I am aware of the complexities in our world. Sometimes I feel frightened about the unknown of what could happen. Random terrorist attacks, natural disasters that happen in response to our misuse of environment, disease and death resulting from toxins and poisons that we continue to ingest. To some degree, we as a civilization have not learned how to deal with the changes and complexities in our evolving world. I think we need to start zeroing in on what we have learned, and begin to fine-tune our journey to create a cleaner, safer and more productive world!
During my first few teaching years, I taught grade one children. I always say that in grade one, children come to class in September with their fingers up their nose and their thumbs in their mouths. They leave grade one as literate human beings no longer learning to read, but in pursuit of reading to learn. Learning is about being exposed to everything and absorbing only little bits at a time. We need time to process change to successfully grow.
Contrary to conventional lesson planning, my ‘reading’ classes were about ‘hanging out’ on the floor reveling in the experience and joy of books. Children lying on the floor, sitting together, or cuddled up in my lap were happily devouring a variety of picture books. Some ‘read’ upside down, simply making up words that told a story that they wanted to tell. Some children just simply carried the book, becoming comfortable with it in their hands, getting the ‘feel’ of books. Some children looked at the pictures and, not able to read the words, made up their own stories. Sometimes, since I had read the book to them so often, individual children would be able to read the book to each other by memorization.
The new skill of reading began with total immersion - an exercise in becoming familiar and comfortable with resources and concepts available for reading. Once the students settled in and demonstrated a comfort with books, I began the practice of teaching specific reading skills like phonics, word recognition, looking for meaning in text and pictures, fluency and critical thinking. That specific attention to skill development happens best once we have identified how a child will learn best, and only when he/she is ready to weed through the abundance of context to acquire and improve specific skills.
Maybe this won’t make sense, but I think the way my grade one children learned to read reflects the way we all learn to live a happy life!
I feel a little like that now. My life for the last few years has been an immersion in semi-retirement, and a push towards a life that is very different from my experiences of the last 40 years. I no longer have children at home. I have greatly reduced the hours I work in classrooms and universities. I go exploring in the world and travel to places that I never dreamed I’d see. My body is aging and functions differently from when I was younger. Mortality is ahead in the future. And I am less afraid about death and even about living!
I feel good about the future. I sit in meetings with young, energetic, smart teachers who are passionate about learning and living and teaching. I see a genuine focus on developing healthy communities in our cities and on world improvement through environmental repair and a healing of relationships. More people talk about the need for love and compassion when negotiating complex decision-making, conflict resolution and solving challenging problems in our world. Our own children are independent, committed to their work, their lives and bettering the lives of others. I still feel eager and able to give back to our generous universe.
As I anticipate the final decades of my life, I feel confident and strong. My shift in priorities becomes more obvious and my journey continues with clarity and intention. I am looking forward to a strong future of carefully crafted activities specifically focused on a new sense of priority and to the next decade of growth, continued health and adventure! Happy New Year all!