Or should it be, “Don’t be so adultish?”
“Don’t be so childish” When were you last called childish –and what does it mean? Were you insulted?
It tends to have negative connotations, silliness, irrational behaviour and stubbornness. I don’t know about you, but I can think of adults who display all of those characteristics ….. and on a regular basis.
People have often asked me why did you become a teacher? And the answer is quite simple, I believe that primary-aged children are great. I believe that they are naturally full of optimism, they don’t see problems they see ideas and creativity; they are not bound by adult conventions. Children simply see possibility.
There are, through history, some amazing young people. Here are a few examples, I have chosen them because their achievements are simply inspirational.
Melati and Isabel Wijsen
Melati and Isabel Wijsen were only 10 and 12, respectively, when they started on a course of activism that has drastically decreased the global usage of single-use plastic. The young women were inspired by the country of Rwanda’s ban of polyethylene bags in 2008, and decided to try to get their native Bali to do the same. Their homegrown initiative of beach cleanups and government petitions graduated to organizations advocating for reduced plastic use in 15 different countries. Bali is now officially plastic bag free, and Indonesia will be by 2021, with the Melati and Isabel to thank.
In 1955, when Claudette Colvin was 15 , she became a major player in the Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Important to note here, that this was nine months before Rosa Parks was arrested for doing the same thing. Claudette was one of the four plaintiffs involved in the Supreme Court case that ultimately outlawed segregation on Alabama buses. Colvin has said about her experience, “I feel very, very proud of what I did. I do feel like what I did was a spark and it caught on.”
Anne Frank wrote The Diary of a Young Girl, one of the world’s most widely known books. Her family went into hiding for 2 years when the persecution of the Jewish population increased, but they were eventually arrested by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp. Anne died at the age of 16 in a camp just a couple of months before the end of the war. Anne had dreamed of being a journalist and didn’t survive to witness her diary be praised for its literary merits. Her diary was published in 1947, by her father, and has been translated into over 70 languages.
Alex Scott was less than a year old when she was diagnosed with cancer and spent her first few years of life fighting against the odds. After receiving a stem cell transplant around her fourth birthday, she vowed to start a lemonade stand to raise money for other children going through the same thing. With the help of her brother, the first stand raised $2,000. The lemonade stand to support cancer research became an annual event for her family and Alex raised over $1 million before losing her own battle in 2004 at eight years old. Her family continues to carry on her legacy through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and has raised over $150 million to date in the hopes of finding a cure.
What role models!. These children have all seen a bigger picture, they acted in the interests of others, thought to solve problems and did not allow their way to be hindered. Each one of them held strong beliefs and took affirmative action to solve a problem. They had to be brave, they needed to put themselves out of their comfort zone and each was very determined. These young people did not see an insurmountable problem, they saw an issue and looked for solutions. I think that their outward thinking, their tenacity and their kindness is inspirational.
I can imagine some of the adults at the start of these actions, perhaps saying “don’t be silly, you can’t do that” Suggesting that it was irrational. Irrational thinking – perhaps it is positive– what stops us doing things as adults – it’s too hard, too complicated, too expensive, or that there is no self-benefit. But, as I have said, children don’t think about limitations…they just think about good ideas – Powerful, hopeful thinking. Children dream about perfection. The key word there is dream! The dream is essential. How many adults still dream like that and believe in possibilities?
Learning between grown-ups and children should be reciprocal, so how can we use adult practicalities and children’s inventiveness together to become more reciprocal? Well, we could try phrases like, “let’s try.” “What do you think? “ “That could be a problem, what do you think the solution could be?”, “Let’s figure this out together.” This is easier said than done. It’s much simpler to say , “You won’t be able to do that” But when expectations are low, trust me, children will sink to them. So, take the leap, trust your children, let them spread their wings, don’t clip them. All too soon, they will grow up and become adults – what sort of adults do we want them to become? I for one, want them to be better than us, and we can only do this by giving them opportunity, by not being afraid for them to be better than us. We must respect, listen and learn from our children. “You must lend an ear today because they will be the leaders of tomorrow”
At school, we do not have low expectations. We expect the best from children, teachers and parents. We absolutely live by our school values of Courage, Compassion, Belief, Endeavour, and Integrity and we adhere to the school motto – “Be your best self”
So, I would urge you all, don’t be adultish , set in your ways and beset with problems – be childish if that means creativity, thinking without boundaries and having unafraid ideas.
Matilda, a Year 6 pupil, in her poem “ My World”, sums up the honesty of the creative thinking of children.
I will put in my box
stars off the next galaxy,
endangered species to save
and silk from Mars so soft.
I will put in my box
A lamp of a genies,
A leaf off the last orange of the season
and a lost memory.
I will put in my box
A magic wand,
A wave of water,
an owl’s feather
and a blue tomato.
I will put in my box
fire from the sun,
rocks from saturn,
the softest skin of an apple
and an orange sunset.
I will put all of this into a box
made of kindness with hinges of courage,
no need for a solid box because
kindness should be solid enough to hold more
than a box of gold or silver or emerald.
I shall bury my box only to be found
by a child with enough courage and kindness
strong enough to change a life.
By Matilda Welsh