Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Journey

I was reminded this weekend about the importance of the journey rather than just the destination.  My mokopuna Flectcher (9),Taylor (6) and I decided to go for a walk to a local harbour beach and the island that is accessible only at low tide, Motuopuhi Island.  According to Google Maps this is only a 17 minute walk but what does Google know about the journey rather than the destination.
As we walked, at a very slow place, we discovered hidden treasures amongst the rocky shore - a soccer ball, a tennis ball, sticks that could break others that could not, some that could be weapons and taiaha and all varying lengths and density.  Each time we slowed and looked deeper into the rocks I reminded myself it is not the destination that matters Lynn.  In fact we might not even reach the island because the journey has taken over and that would be alright.

Who would have thought about the number of conversations that could come out of sticks - why does the bark peel off, why is this one so little, what is this sort of wood, how did they get here and many more.  Conversations and questions that we all puzzled over that meant our 17 minute walk turned into an hour one way but it felt like no time at all.  Is this what  Csikszentmihalyi meant when he talked about “Flow”?

Finally we reached our destination and to our delight there were many more sticks that could be broken, smashed on rocks, woven together to make a teepee, used for slingshots and bow and arrows.  We trekked around the island and over it through the long grass without a path.  Fletcher showed me how brave he could be as he set out ahead of Taylor and I delighting in the unknown and seeing it as a new adventure.

As we walked home it was a time of further conversations about what makes the world go round.   Taylor sparked up a conversation that may have been inspired by the sticks - bow and arrows.  He started by saying, “Nanna we shouldn’t have guns and arrows that way no one would die except for when they are old and that’s ok.”  He thought a little more about this because he understands about hunting and fishing from his hunter gathering whānau.  “Maybe some people could have guns though so they could hunt for animals but we can’t use guns to hunt for people.”  Taylor is a deep thinker and I wondered how many wonderful conversations had preempted this one to get him to a place where he could understand so much about life.  There is research which highlights the importance of having conversations with babies.  Apparently researchers can determine the success of a 32 year old by the number of words spoken to them while they were a baby.  There is a proviso to this though and that it has to be quality communication. This research makes me wonder about all the wonderful conversations that children can experience throughout those first 7 years that will build children’s capacity for divergent thinking.  It is up to us to make the time for the conversations especially when we remember that it is not the destination but the journey.  We may already have the answers to children’s questions but let us not rob them of the journey of inquiring by using our words to inform rather than encourage.

At the beginning of our day we had set out for a destination but actually it was the journey that held just as much if not more learning.  Which made me think about teaching and learning - for both it is the journey isn’t it.  Particularly for us as teachers it is great to be reminded about the importance of the journey.  We can have a destination in mind which may look like one month of planning in advance based around an idea of what we think children would be interested in.  If we focused on the journey, taking the time for the conversations and questions that children pose there would be a certain amount of uncertainity but I think that this is a wonderful place to be in. To use some of Lorraine Sands words, it would mean that teacher practice would shift away from the routinised, predictable timetable where teachers are the comfortable knowers  and into a space of embracing uncertainity and tuning into this mysterious work of the unknown journey that children’s questions can take us on.  Then teachers can be prepared to wonder at, be surprised by and then to consider the myriad questions and solutions that children have that lead into directions that are unpredictable and unknowable in advance.