Learn Something New

“You can learn something new every day
…if you listen”?

[Image description: A picture of a rainbow-striped wall hanging that reads, “You can learn something new every day if you listen.” I have circled “If you listen” and written a question mark out to the side of it. End description.]

I saw this in a kindergarten classroom and I thought about what it was saying. That doesn’t sound true to me.

I mean, you can certainly learn something new every day, but I don’t know that “listening” necessarily has anything to do with it.

You might learn something new every day if you play in the sand and the mud and with sticks and rocks and leaves.

The laws of physics, the tactile and auditory and visual properties of new and familiar materials. The sensorimotor experience of living in your body and exploring the world. The social push and pull of grasping the worlds in your head, turning them into communication, sharing them with another person, and the power you both wield to shape reality around you. The essence of numbers — not the structured and rigid math of worksheets, but the deep body-understanding of how a pile of three looks next to a pile of five; the concept of small infinities in cascading grains of sand. The way a shadow falls when you move something just right. The way a tree is alive and the way that a broken stick isn’t, and what the insect crawling along the leaf means to both, and who you are to any of the above.

The feeling in your mind and in your soul when you’re in complete flow, totally in the zone, immersed in the richness of life. The seeds of poetry. The stuff of longing, of nostalgia, and here you are living it for the first time. You might learn something about that.

And if you’re not inclined to listen to some grown-up droning away in the background in favor of all that, well, I can’t say I blame you. And I also can’t say it’ll matter too much.

You might not hear what’s being taught, but that hardly means you won’t learn.