Baan Dek

Doing Nothing

Thoughts & Reflections

“What did you do today?”

“Nothing.” Or, perhaps, if we’re lucky, “Ate snack.”

This is never accurate. A child is ALWAYS doing SOMETHING.

The challenge comes in expressing that Something. A child cannot say they learned new vocabulary. Once a child knows something, it is as though they have always known it. A child does not fondly recall that time before they learned to walk, and a reader doesn’t recall the sounding out and the struggle and the internalizing sight words, they just Always knew how to do this.

Whereas we remember learning to code, or to speak Italian, or to make quiche, everything a child learns becomes part of who they are.

A child is learning all the time. She’s learning through working with materials, through struggle and making mistakes and asking a friend for help, through simply observing the classroom or eavesdropping on an older child dividing fractions.

Baan Dek Doing Nothing Montessori

“Nothing,” when a child is recalling what they did during the day, is never quite accurate, but sometimes it feels like nothing. Like the “oh, it’s nothing!” when a friend or colleague thanks you profusely for helping code their new website, or for translating at that big meeting, or for preparing an exquisite quiche to share over a lovely meal with dearest friends.

We say it offhanded, “oh, it’s nothing!” It’s become a second language, the code, or the Italian, or the recipe, and sometimes it really has become “nothing.” We think nothing of it. It’s easy. It comes so simply. Things just fall together, and even a wrench thrown in isn’t catastrophic.

The learning in the classroom comes so naturally. Every new experience is building on success, on mastery, on previous knowledge. It’s only an incremental difference, nothing, really.

But those little Nothings add up. Building lists of words becomes sounding out those words, identifying those sounds, attaching them to a letter, stringing those letters together to form something coherent, recalling and recombining that exact combination to attach to a specific meaning, and all of a sudden, Nothing has become Literacy.

This is also such a reminder to us of the millions of learnings, neural pathways, logical sequences, a child is internalizing when she appears to be doing “nothing.”

Observing is not nothing. Repetition is not nothing. Counting is not nothing. It is all something. It’s indescribable, and the amazing things to come are, too.

Written by:

Charlotte Wood

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