Anyone who works with children of any age please take note: don’t play with fire.
One of the pie-in-the-sky, somewhat tired cliches of aspiring educateurs is to “keep lit the flame of passionate inquiry” in children/students/people. I’m all for it. I’m big-time in favor of poetic pronunciations purporting to pursue the proverbial “good” of education: keeping that flame alive.
But when we offer to students well-meaning opportunities to get involved with something meaningful, too often the offering ends up “playing at”, pretending, approximating. It’s like giving your four year old a wooden cucumber to cut because he likes to “cook”. Give him a cucumber. Don’t pretend to cook – let him cook. There’s a significant difference between truly taking on a real experience, challenge or responsibility and tokenistic attempts at the same.
Sure, teachers like to parade a class of children one day down to the food bank or soup kitchen in order to offer an experience that will be illuminating. Does it make a difference? If a child chooses to get involved and take on a role like this, let them, encourage them – but make it meaningful. Make it a responsibility. Make it real. The value of really doing it – for real – is that it is REAL. There’s no substitute for the real. You can’t fake it, you can’t approximate it.
The fire within the soul of every person deserves to burn strong and wild. Feed that fire with real experience. Feed it anything else and you’re asking for trouble.