by Sarah Sivright
This February, Bev Boss died. She was an early childhood educator of many years and great influence. Boss was a champion of play-based education and she was a gifted musician, singer and songwriter. The early childhood field will miss her fearless voice. Among the many tributes paid to her was the following, written by Tom Rotelli, a parent at her school. I include this excerpt here as a vivid picture of what a preschool environment should look and sound like. For the most part, in our country, at this moment, it does not. We all need to be “the gardeners” who keep nurturing what we know is good for children.
On February 4, 2016, Bev died. By her standards, it was an unimportant day, because on that day she did not arrive at the school an hour before the first child, she did not sweep what she had swept so often, she did not say, “I was waiting for you,” she was not hugged by a child, she did not hand out paint nor melted crayons nor glue nor dye nor vinegar nor baking soda, she did not shoo away a bunch of parents for clumping and not watching the kids, she did not try to push a swinging child all the way around, she did not bury a dead walking stick nor a fish, she did not argue with the state as to why a preschool should not have an open body of water in its entryway nor why a roaring fire in the sand yard was unusual, she did not read a book, she did not laugh at Teacher Sally so bundled in Surveyors Tape that she could not walk, she did not look at a child covered head-to-toe in shaving cream and say, “Let me get you more,’ she did not ask Michael Leeman to sing 47 verses of On The Day I Went to Sea, she did not pinch a parent for saying “Good Job!” Her auto-harp was still. She did not say, I love you.
February 4, 2016, however, became perhaps the most important day in all of our lives. For on that day, we inherited something … something wonderful … something awesome … something scary. On that day, WE became Bev’s legacy. The burden that Bev had always carried for us suddenly passed to us. We became the gardeners. Our love demands that we rise to become the champions that Bev showed us how to be. We must stick up for childhood. We must challenge the norms. We must never rush a child. (As her great friend Docia Zavitkovsky said, “Pulling the tail off a tadpole will not make it a frog!” ) We must discard the word “readiness:” and ask not if the child is ready for kindergarten, but is the child done with preschool. We must not praise art. We must never do for a child what she can do for herself.
The garden remains,
and we are the gardeners.
THIS is how our story starts…