Today, my daughter walked into her pre-k 4 classroom and discovered it in a state of total chaos. Chairs were flipped upside down, bins of blocks and legos had been dumped out, their class teddy bears were off the shelf and flopped every which way, giant plastic letters were strewn all over the floor and everything shone gold- from a dumped container of glitter . Normally, a scene like this could be really disturbing to four and five year olds, but every child who entered the room giggled and squealed. They knew who the vandals were — leprechauns.
It’s a risky move on the teachers’ part. They have spent the past six months teaching children how to sit quietly, pick up after they finish with something, play with things and others nicely and how to transition in an orderly manner from one activity in a schedule to the next . This morning, the children realized that sometimes people break the rules and they saw this place of order, routine and structure as something a little bit different.
I can’t begin to tell you how I love this. I understand the need for rules and order and civility, I really do. And I think we overplay those concepts to the point where we can’t think outside of them. It keeps us from being able to problem solve or create something uniquely ours. Ever write in a book? Feels a little naughty doesn’t it? My older daughter owns a book called “Wreck This Journal.” In it are pages of subversive instructions such as “poke holes through this page” or “attach the book to the back of your bike and drag it down the street.” Things many of us would never consider doing to a book, and yet, every time she follows a suggestion, her own creativity and ideas about what are possible expand.
I’ve seen front doors painted outrageous colors, guitars written and drawn on with sharpies, Christmas trees nailed to the ceiling, front yards ripped up to make room for vegetable gardens and trees so filled with glass mobiles, you needed sunglasses just to look in that direction on sunny days. We have people who encourage us to write our secrets on postcards and then post them on the internet , we have flash mobs that create the best Little League game ever and we have undergraduates at Rice University who turn salad spinners into centrifuges for Third World countries who lack necessary medical equipment. All because they were able to see outside of the rules, the order, the way things “are supposed to be.” Thank god for the leprechauns out there who help us see what we can do when we bend the rules just a smidge.