It is OK to be Childlike but not Childish

I looked across my classroom today with childlike wonder. My students were doing something difficult. But, they deftly added binary numbers with ease. Although the subject is advanced, they say it is “easy.” Their ability fills me with joy. A big part of that joy is my perspective —  stepping back in childlike wonder and seeing my students perform, know, and create. Teaching is so exciting when I look at my job in childlike wonder realizing that I'm part of that accomplishment.

The age of our heart is young if a sunset can still take our breath away or a baby's cry can make our eyes sparkle and arms reach. If we can lick an ice cream cone slowly in enjoyment or breathe deeply in the spring to smell the jasmine, then perhaps we still have childlike wonder. Childlike is awesome. Childlike is young.

When someone has a childlike wonder about the world, they can still see things as if for the first time. Childlike excitement causes us to squeal in joy when we hook a fish or to take time to help a stray puppy find her owner.

Childlike is fine. Childish is not.

However, a deep chasm divides child-like and child-ish. A CEO can have childlike wonder as she speaks to her stockholders.

“What joy! I get to do this!,” she thinks in wonder.

Childish is when someone stomps out of a room when they don't get their way. Or when someone cannot take criticism. A childish person is immature in their reactions to the world, especially adversity.

Children and teenagers are pretty selfish. We expect that. But when a 45-year old is just as selfish as a 14-year old — that is sad. You'd like to think that over time people would appreciate others and want to serve them. And yet, immature, childish people of all ages are everywhere.

And yet, people full of childlike wonder are everywhere as well.

As we pursue excellence, consider the last time you felt childlike wonder. Have you taken the time to observe and notice the beauty of the world and others?

And also consider if you've acted childish in some way recently.

Have a conversation (like we did at the supper table tonight) with your family about the difference between childlike and childish and which belongs in the life of an excellent person.

What do you think?

This post is day 19 of 80 days of excellence. I've created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere
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