To Respond and Not to Respond… to language. That is a question?

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    Matthew Wetzler
    Keymaster

    Every year there are waves of keywords, phrases, and experiential chatter that children bring to their mono/dialogues with each other and to the school. Sometimes its simple parroting. Actually most of the time it is parroting, but sometimes it’s purposeful symbolic play that is shared to see if they can ya know, generate some reactions in others. Play anyone?

    I recall the phrase “I’m bored” last year. It was my favorite and may still be. It would spread like wild-fire. Typically it was “this is boring,” “I’m bored,” or just “thats boring!” Occasionally it involved an activity that Cheryl and I spent an unusually large amount of time setting up and that we were quite proud of. Perhaps the easel was lugged up to the top of the hill to be a tool for capturing the morning sunrise, only to hear, “that’s boring,” “Yeah, I’m bored”

    Now… I am a big fan of writers like Larry David and Phoebe Waller-Bridge and as a result the idea that children using “I am bored” to jolt a group of motivated adults into a storm of self-consciousness; it’s great! Aside from being excellent material for my own imagined hijinks — I can tell when the language the children are repeating is having an impact. How do I know? Because they will bring it back to school. Every day. Sometimes all day. Like a glittery stuffed animal at the check-out of target, or a cool worm they found under a rock. The difference is when the intangible words are discovered to have some tangible powers. And “this is boring” was right in that reinforcement sweet spot of being tricky to address and not needing to be addressed — as fixation can have interesting effects, as many parents may have discovered.

    This anecdote is a simple reminder of a seemingly uncomplicated complex thing. A great majority of language that is used in early childhood development is pre-cognitive. This means that “this is boring” can have so many meanings that it is made meaningless. For example a child may have justifiably interpreted that related (“it’s boring”) statements get adults to bring them a new thing, a new toy, a new stimulation, a new something. In this world where toys and screens and objects do all of the imagining for us, the child as a scientist craves the immediacy of that new experience. However this is a made-up meaning I just invented – for thousands of moments. It by no means … means… the language that we think it means, all the time. Ha ha. Okay hopefully I didn’t lose the 2 people reading this.

    If the moment of “this is boring” is reflective of anything, it is that the explorer child is quite simply playing with language. They noticed these string of words makes adults react in ways their words (aka symbolic playthings) might not typically impart. A child in the pre-operational stage of development (between the ages of 3 and 7-8) does not know what the extremely experienced-based concept of “boring” is. That child does not know how to think conceptually yet. And thats great! That means they can have a hell of a lot more fun with hardly any input, or stimulation. A piece of lint is their hero. More simply put, the meaning behind “boring” is dependent on the attention it receives. We didn’t pay it any attention at the time and we all moved on. I prefer to direct my attention to catapulting mud-balls and making wheels out of grapevines.

    • This topic was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Matthew Wetzler.
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