Every so often (and more often than not) I’m surprised with an email about a former student. Typically it comes from the parent, regaling a wonderful experience with their child, directly related to something from their days in my classroom Juliet’s adventure at MoMA discovering Starry Night is a classic example. After decades of teaching, those emails, photos, letters and conversations are my rich rewards.
Then, there are the children who contact me directly well into their adulthood, like Michelle. She has often asked me to retell the ‘Jennie Stories’ she fondly remembers, such as “The Peas and the Piano”. She recently sent me this selfie with the Peace Quilt at the National Liberty Museum in historic Philadelphia.
She wrote, “I was feeling homesick. I visited this piece of Groton in Philadelphia.” This quilt is my Blog photo; it’s one of the biggest projects I did with children and a path of emergent curriculum that led from making a book on Peace, to building a Peace Portal, to creating this quilt with a master quilter, Milly Cunningham.
Michelle remembers. More than the quilt, she remembers words and language, reading and storytelling. She wrote, “…the data is something that needs to be weaved into smaller doses”. She refers to developing stories over time. She’s right; as I tell and retell stories those words become the data from which to develop more stories and more thinking. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Well Michelle, you get it, or better yet you got it years ago in my preschool classroom. It comes as no surprise that you work for a major literary agency. You told me that “…often teachers read about the ‘trees’ in education, but few are good at talking about the ‘forest'”. You’re right. When teachers see the forest, the trees grow, and the words and imagination flow.