While in Portland this past weekend at the PCPI (Parent Cooperative Preschools International) Annual Meeting three great things happened. First of all I was able to connect with many of my fellow Canadians as well as many other wonderful parents and teachers. There were 5 different school tours (one of which has a class dog - what a great gift!). It is always a bonus to see what other schools are doing and get some new ideas. If only we had a hillside big enough to have a built in slide! Secondly, Lesley and I discovered the BEST DUMPSTER EVER! Things really do happen for a reason. Our drivers (not the ones we were originally scheduled to drive with) got a little lost on the way to the Awards Dinner and thank goodness they did. When we pulled into a parking lot to double check the map Lesley and I both spotted a dumpster with a wallpaper sample book poking out of the top. We couldn't get out of the car fast enough. From experience we know that where there is one sample book there will be more sample books and possibly even something better. In this case we found a dumpster full of fabric, wall paper, formica, floor tiles, lucite and more. We were also able to take people back after the Awards Dinner and share the treasures with them. I was very jealous of the people who were close enough to drive to Portland - I would have filled up the whole car! As it was, Lesley and I were able to carry back about 50 lbs of treasures in each of our suitcases!
The third thing was triggered by the guest speaker, Tom Hobson (Teacher Tom), from Woodland Park in Seattle Washington. As part of his presentation he talked about play and risk. Two things I think we are really good at fostering here at The Cooperative School. But I was also still thinking about the dumpster the night before. I realized what play was for me; new discoveries, surprises, the challenge of filling our suitcases to maximum capacity without being penalized for weight and figuring out how to get the best tiles from the bottom of the dumpster without falling in head first. I also liked being able to share that with others. Isn't that what teaching is all about?
The other side of play for me is the discovery. If someone had taken us to the dumpster it would have been great but finding it ourselves was what made it extra special. It is important for us as teachers and parents to allow the magic of self discovery to happen for the kids too. We want to model appropriate behavior but the best gift is to let kids discover for themselves, to remove ourselves from the conversation. Don't give away all the secrets.