The other day I stopped into a local store to get some resources for an activity I'm planning. I saw a few craft items and kits for making Christmas ornaments or crafts. "Okay," I thought. "I guess you need to get started early on that kind of stuff."
Then I stumbled into an aisle that was row and row of Christmas ornaments. "It's summer," I thought."I don't need to see or think about this yet." I just couldn't comprehend it.
But, of course, I pondered on seeing all this Christmas stuff now. It's seems that we're always rushing to the next thing. Maybe it's a product of our society or the need to be "productive" and "ready." But it seems that we are looking forward, pushing and preparing for what's next. And we miss out on what's now. I know we need to prepare and that things don't just happen without planning. But we can get so focused on what's coming that we miss the joys of warm (okay, hot) days and the smell of mown grass and the taste of cool iced tea. We don't need to rush on to Christmas before we've even reached Labor Day.
The same thing happens in teaching. I see it in early childhood education but I think it happens at every level. Rushing things seems to be what we're all about in education. Kids need to read NOW. Kids need to master things NOW. We want them to be prepared for college and for life so we need to get things done when they're 5. We could discuss the wisdom of pushing young kids to read; I've read several things that say most kids aren't ready to master reading until at least age 7. We could discuss the more developmental needs that preschoolers have; Rae Pica has a great book on that. We could review the need for exploration and play and development of "soft skills". All of those issues are very important and valid reasons for not rushing ahead.
But sometimes lost in all those important discussions is this: When we rush ahead, we miss the now. We miss the joy of being 4 or 5 years old. We miss silly jokes and sticky hands. We miss the deep questions that come when a young mind is beginning to pull strands of understanding into a more coherent whole. We miss the awe and wonder of looking at a trail of ants or the fun of punching holes in a piece of paper with a hole punch.
We lose a sense of discovery and wonder. We may squelch curiosity. The joy of learning is left behind in a push to move on.
We miss experiencing life through the eyes of a young child. As an adult I've lost the ability to see things as new. A hole punch is just a tool. A stapler connects paper. Writing things down is a way for me to remember what my leaking brain may forget.
But when I experience a hole punch or a stapler or writing with a young child, I see the miracles that these things really are. I experience joy.
And that's what we lose when we rush things. The joy of now.