Five days until the Maho Workshop begins and I’m already exhausted. Not that I’ve had much break since the Haiti trip. Pretty much this entire year so far has been one thing after the next, an endless string of details demanding time. Everything I do is instead of something else.

This morning I’m wondering just how real I ought to get in these posts. With a name like “realness” staring back at me, my first thought is “very.” But people are many and they’ve each have their own likely reactions. The deeper you dig, the more you risk alienating or offending some.

Now of course it all depends of what you consider “real.” There’s an arrogance in describing one thing as real and others not, but my choice of terms was deliberate. I want people to think about authenticity and what it means to them.

Speaking for myself, realness means complete lack of artifice. “Be who you are, not who you’re not.” We spend our lives constructing these attitudinal constructs which we think of as “us” and they’re really not. Realness is the way you talk to that one person in the world that really gets you, the way you feel when you’re the person you’d like to be. Realness is the way we should talk to young children. Realness is children.

When I was four years old, my family got an Old English Sheep Dog, which we named Frisby. He had my same birthday and we were friends from the start. When adult friends came over, both me and Frisby got trotted out for the first round of cocktails (“He’s getting so big”, “Your puppy is so cute”) and then Frisby would abruptly get locked in the mud room where he’d sit and scratch the door. I’d usually join him in solidarity, sitting and listening to the strange talk of adults, which didn’t sound much like how my family talked to us when others weren’t around. We clearly weren’t invited.

Kids know when you’re not real. You can syrup up your voice. You can pat their head and ask questions and smile. You can tell them jokes. But until you make your arms short and stomp after them like a T-Rex, you’re just an adult and you’ll never truly reach them. They’ll stay locked in the mud room, wondering what all this talk is about, hoping you’ll include them.

After a while, they stop hoping. Some learn to do what they’re told. Others disconnect and learn limitations. “Deficiency becomes identity.”

Want to know how to improve education? Start by being real with kids.

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