Today's news: Toddler's learning contentment trumps the Trump trial and other planetary concerns

I woke up to the sounds of a baby in my house this morning; those delicious sounds of…uh, oh, oopsies, hi,, woow, wooow; the baby, our granddaughter, is 15 months old and a girl. Those in our family bubble surround her most of the day, awed by her every move, waiting for a smile, a laugh, or deeper engagement as she raises her hands out to a select family member, delivering an outstretched nonverbal, hold me, show me, teach me!

And we hit PLAY AGAIN! I wonder—do I want to freeze this moment or maybe hit a gentle pause.

The world is her classroom, yet what is it teaching us? My kids, her parents and aunt and uncle, have quit watching the news this week. Pictures of the insurrection on the Capitol dominate coverage and social media as the second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump begins this morning. Yesterday, I read about a calving glacier that killed over one hundred people in India, residents caught by surprise—what glacier cracks during the winter. I just send out an email to elementary students about the consequences of climate change, asking them to choose one consequence to study in depth from the following: invasive insects, rising sea level, increased methane emissions (caused by melting permafrost), and creatures facing extinction. I can think of a whole lot more consequences to study next week, when my kids depart.

Quite frankly, our world is a hot mess; still, all I want to focus on today is my babbling granddaughter. I’ll help her look for Elmo or splash her around in the pool. I delight in her cultural colorblindness as she points to a person of color and says, “da da” (my son is Caucasian). Or, experience pangs of joy each time she hands something to her mother, and her mother smiles and says, “thank you.” Or, I laugh at her aunt’s goofiness as I watch my daughter (aunt now, mom soon) turn a cup into a hat or pull a scarf out of her sleeve, all to the delight of our granddaughter who has an unquenchable desire to learn, explore, and experience.

What comes to mind as I try to blog? Not the adolescent narcissist facing conviction during a second impeachment trial. Even the challenges to our planet won’t lure me away from my happy, grandmotherly thoughts of childhood and possibility.

Yep–I’ll dream today and think of my teachers, my educational icons, like advocates of active and optimal learning experiences such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory was the subject of my dissertation. Csikszentmihalyi embraced giving children the opportunity to take charge of learning and become completely absorbed in the process (think “in the zone”). Or feminist bel hooks who saw the classroom as a paradise, advising youth–actually all learners–to “enjoy education as the practice of freedom…to connect the will to know with the will to become.”

So many unknowns–how will we save our planet? Will Trump finally be convicted? Banned from serving in public office?

But, today, actually, this morning, there’s one true thing: babies, and I seem to think others, who enjoy learning will always be content.

Reach for it, toddler girl, and give us those smiles! Yes, you got it!


hooks, Teaching to Transgress

Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

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