Monday, November 24, 2014

Strolling Through the Park

In the first journal I ever kept back in 1973, I found this passage:

“The heart of all cities lies in its parks. I love them. Could easily spend my life sitting on park benches watching the world go by or strolling through them going nowhere in particular. Here is where the old gather at card tables to cure their loneliness, where parents come to watch their children scamper around, where lovers come to fan their flames. Here is where those who know the value of uselessness come and practice their art.”

Interesting thoughts from that 22-year old and prophetic of an adult life spent wandering around Golden Gate Park. Yesterday, I shared that pleasure with the Interns—Pati, Tricia, Zukhra, Melonko, Melanie, along with Pati’s Dad and later our dear friend Jackie— and what a fine time we had! We posed in front of the Keith Haring sculpture duplicating some of the shapes and then sat in that round outdoor room outside the De Young museum and filled the acoustics with improvised choral singing and body percussion. We strolled around Stowe Lake past the paddle-boaters pushing through the water and turtles sunning lazily on a log. We raced leaves on the illusory uphill stream that empties into Lloyd Lake, walked by the guys playing on the hidden Frisbee golf course, stopped to greet the bison sitting Buddha-like contemplating the world. We bounced a ball on the paths while we walked and they sat on a log while I enacted the story of my first meetings with my wife close to the house where it all happened. We gazed out at Seal Rock from the Cliff House and then scampered down the rocks to the beach following Pati’s spontaneous idea to write something on the sand. Using our shoes, we spelled out in large letters


and then ran and leapt and danced around and through them while Jackie took videos and photos from above. We lined up behind the “Orff” and did a Can-Can dance until the water unexpectedly caught us from behind and we ran laughing and screaming away.

I like that line I wrote 41 years ago “…those who know the value of uselessness come to practice their art.” That’s indeed what we did, cavorting like little children even as we are supposed to be responsible adults. Besides the sheer fun and healing power of laughter, it struck me that days like this were as much at the heart of this Orff training as observing and teaching kid’s classes. It invited us to remember and reveal our childlike selves, gave us permission to offer spontaneous ideas and then follow them, united us as a bunch of playful lunatics unafraid to show and share our joy in living. Having become little children again, we were now renewed in our appreciation of the actual kids we teach and prepared to enter their marvelous world on their terms while still leading them to adulthood.

Having written two critiques of current educational policy, here is the antidote. I want to take the Common Core authors on a walk through the park and see if I could help unleash their tightly-tamed adult. Then after a day of useless cavorting, let’s sit back down and re-write that document. Or toss it out all together and re-envision a teacher-training that includes a romp through the park.

Anyone on board?

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