We Are Bouncers Against Those That Rush Childhood
“I sometimes find myself despairing over my own part in this tragedy of contemporary childhood. I am, after all, a teacher in a preschool, a thing that barely existed in my own childhood. But, damn it, I’m striving, and I’ll continue to strive, with every fiber of my being, to create a place, a culture, in which children are free to prowl, to play with one another without constant adult interference. It is not as good as I had it, but it’s better than what’s going on in society at large where we have done pretty much everything possible to destroy childhood to the detriment of us all. It begins with me, with us.”- Teacher Tom
Sometimes being a Forest School mentor can feel like a blessing and a curse at the same time. How lucky am I that I get to walk into the woods with a group of the most curious humans on this planet and spend that time discovering together? We exist as one unit when we come together on our Forest School days and we always emerge changed. Sometimes we leave with more questions than we have answered but we are always grateful for that time spent in Mother Nature.
But how can this be? How did society get to a point where “Forest School” needs to even exist? How, as a group of humans, have we moved so far away from our roots that we need to create a specific time and space for kids to be kids playing outside in nature? My heart soars each time we enter the woods and breaks for the children that may not get to spend a chunk of their childhood stirring mud or spying on a bug munching a leaf. Isn’t that what childhood is all about?
So if Forest School is about kids being kids – pushing boundaries, getting dirty, and working through messy social dynamics, what are our mentors doing? It might not seem like a lot while in the woods but like any good production, the heavy lifting is done behind the scenes. To begin, each of our lead mentors is a Level 3 Forest School Certified Practitioner and is endorsed by the Forest School Association. In addition to having diverse backgrounds, wild ones of their own, our lead mentors have trained for 300+ hours as Forest School practitioners and each year, we travel around the world to continue our nature connection education. Our assisting mentors, are equally awesome and have diverse backgrounds, as well in traditional teaching, nature + yoga therapy and herbalism, to name a few. You can read more about each of our mentor’s unique magic here.
As an Aishling Mentor, we are always observing, reflecting, communicating and brain and heart storming about how best to support our wondrous learners and yes, to be a mentor means to be apart of at least four group text messages. To create the container that is not “as safe as possible” but is as “safe as necessary”, there is a lot of observation and reflection that goes on before, during, and after each class. On any given day (and middle of the night), there might be blogs, podcasts, and book recommendations lighting up my phone based on an observation I shared with the other mentors. There are thoughtful discussions about a learner who might be looking to challenge herself and how we can make that happen at our next class. There are ongoing discussions about how we make sure our learners have the freedom to explore their own passions. I am humbled by the dedication our mentors have to remaining “child led” when the pendulum of trust in children has swung so far in the other direction. I am grateful to be a part of this supportive and caring group of women. We are all here to preserve the magic of childhood – to be the bouncers against those who say this generation of children needs more pushing and more striving.
Remember being little? Remember spending 45 minutes with one milkweed pod or pulling leaves out of a stream? What we don’t remember is where those actions led us to in our minds. Did we come home with questions about how long those bits of fluff could stay above the ground on the wind or did we finally get the head space we needed to process the other big emotions we may have felt in another part of our life? Children are enough, children are born perfect and are developing exactly as they should be. All of these moments spent in nature are important parts of childhood and as mentors we get to stand quietly behind them, armed with a reference book to find out more about wind or that hug when they need it most.
We are here to walk with our learners on their journey and to help navigate difficult terrain. It’s our privilege to do so and an honor we never take for granted
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