One of my favourite children’s books is What do you do with an idea?, written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom. It’s about a child who one day has an idea. The idea’s literal form is a small golden egg with a crown and two legs. For the first part of the book the idea is the only element of colour on each page, but as the story progresses the child goes through a variety of stages: first wondering where the idea came from, then hiding from it, followed by attempts to justify it before finally embracing it. As the idea becomes more powerful, its colour spreads to the scenes around it. The book concludes with a beautiful full-colour page and the answer to what you do with an idea — “You change the world.”
The book is meaningful on so many different levels, but I want to explore it’s meaning to me, namely that ideas are hard to repress. Now, harmful ones do need to be contained, but good ones will see the light of day. Ideas are like the roots of a tree, powerful enough to break through the drab cement of reality and unpack the careful boxings containing it.
Sometimes ideas are held back by external forces – oppression, poor thinking, guilt, inarticulation, even education. Other times we are the obstacles; our doubts and insecurities prevent our ideas from being nourished.
This blog has been a step towards dealing with one of my own personal grand procrastinations. It’s become a place where I can tentatively put my ideas up for scrutiny and interaction, get some accountability for my thoughts, and maybe let my light shine from the top of the mountain. A place where the delicate balance between personal, professional, creative, and passionate weave/fuse/graft into something that is “now a part of everything”.
I have tried to keep the focus of this blog on topics relating to teaching, literacy, bilingualism, and education. But as an EAL teacher, language itself has been a focus as well. Next school year I will explore the massive importance of language to identity, culture, meaning making, and bulwark against the forces of homogenization.
For now, though, it’s good to reflect on how language is like an unruly beast, refusing to submit to rules for long, possessing a life of its own. Much like an irrepressible idea. I am convinced that because language is so deeply embedded in our humanity, even our brains, and possesses a complexity that may as well be miraculous, we educators need to be more aware of its importance.
We EAL teachers occupy a unique position from which to observe one language — English. We are better able to appreciate the arbitrariness of its dominance in international education, as well as the messiness of its rules. We appreciate that as a powerful language English has the potential to be a powerful illuminator of ideas.
But we also teach children. Our future. And sometimes because of our specialty as language teachers, we catch glimpses of the ideas obscured by language, lack of experience, and sometimes even straightforward institutional ignorance. We can become advocates for our students as they timidly learn to express and articulate their ideas for uncertain futures.
And so I close this blog for this season with my own humble synthesis attempted in this post. My fragile idea. I’ll let it incubate over the summer and see what progress it has made by the fall and how much more it has become a part of the world.