I recently wrote a piece for our school web news about rigor in early education. I really struggled with the topic. Words that came to my mind were challenge, difficult, demanding – not words that I would tie to our preschool program. But I am driven to help people understand that there is learning happening at preschool – it looks like play, but it is learning. So, how would I connect this idea of play and learning and rigor? I stared at those words on the page until they began to wobble and then I saw it – AND – one little word but just the word I needed. It is play AND it is learning – right there, in the middle, that word AND represents the rigor. It could be all play. Or it could be all structured learning activities. But we strive to provide that space between play and learning where the child finds both joy and challenge.
So, what about me? What is happening in the AND moments of my life? I wrote recently about knitting a sweater. It would be both playful and an opportunity to learn. In the first few inches I had to learn how to knit a buttonhole. But about halfway into the yoke, I found myself wondering why I was knitting this sweater. It is a cardigan with only three buttons on the yoke. I don’ t really like cardigans that don’t button all the way down. I was using this pattern because someone at work who knits a lot told me it was a good starter sweater. It does seem to fit that bill. But I had purchased good yarn and it was going to take quite a bit of time and in the end, I feared I would not even like the sweater. I put my knitting in my lap and spent a few minutes silently considering what I was doing. And in that silence I felt that still, small voice giving me permission to pull out my needles and start again. I am still looking for the pattern that I will use to knit a sweater. A pattern that will provide those AND moments, of knitting as play AND learning. For now, I have rewound my yarn and placed it on my desk, a reminder to pay attention to that still, small voice and to respect the process as much as the product.
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