Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Velveteen Rabbit Test

A colleague who was my student in the Orff Institut Special Course presented a lovely workshop yesterday sharing some of the ideas and inspirations he picked up in that intensive year of study. He told me how he did the same workshop back in September and how different this one felt because between September and April, he actually worked with the material and ideas in his classes with children. And that’s when it became real.

Just like the Velveteen Rabbit. No matter how clever the idea, the teaching process, the new ap for the Smart Board, the cool song, it doesn’t wholly come to life until it has been hugged and squeezed and dragged through the dirt and generally worked over by the children. Once it passed through their exuberant bodies and imaginative minds and love-struck hearts, then it becomes wholly alive, becomes authentic, becomes real. There is no shortcut and no way to sidestep this process and still be honest presenting things in a workshop.

School boards, take note. I am so weary of the next “latest and greatest” in education that is cooked up in conference rooms with the windows shut and bad coffee. Nothing, and I mean nothing, of value in education can be of value until it has passed the Velveteen Rabbit Test. The kids need to work with the ideas, ideally adding their own and the teacher needs to note their reaction. Do they generally care for that stuffed rabbit they’ve been offered or is it just another doll in the heap of neglected toys? Do the teachers notice how much love is present when they hold the doll in their hands? Do they help sew the arm back on or instead, buy an electronic mechanical doll that talks in pre-programmed sentences rather than through the imaginative voice of the child playing with it?

So in my role as a teacher speaking on behalf of children, I propose the Velveteen Rabbit Test as the standard by which things are judged, accepted, approved. And note that even if the kids in this class love the doll, the kids in that class might not. The alert teacher might need to shift to the Raggedy Ann doll or the Koala stuffy.

Friends, let’s keep it real.

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