My mother use to say I was “away with the fairies” which meant she couldn’t reach me as I wouldn’t notice her speaking my name yet I would appear to be doing nothing. I still do this. Sometimes it just looks like I am doing some menial task, doodling, or sometimes it looks like I am staring into space. Thinking about these posts is one example of what is going on in my head, but mostly I couldn’t tell you what I am thinking. H does this too. Sometimes I find out she has written whole stories in her head. Sometimes she is doing what my mother called “being in a game” but mostly I have no idea and I don’t ask as it really is one’s own private space. I did use to ask “a penny for your thoughts?” when H was little (I was curious as to what 3 year olds think about) but she always refused to tell me. My Dad is often in his head too. I am sure he would say he is thinking about economics, or some weighty scientific something but he certainly can’t hear us speak to him, and does NOT want to be interrupted… Mostly how this living in your head manifests itself in our house is that when you say something to another member they may be able to physically hear you but the words are ignored as whatever is in their head has priority so if what you are saying is important you need to check they truly heard. All of us forget we haven’t told each other something because we lived it in our heads, and we don’t often check comprehension, so it can be frustrating. You’d think we’d be more understanding of each others not listening! It must look weird to others as we go about our day where we all go off and do our separate mind activities and look like we are doing nothing or something painfully slowly, yet we can still forget the time and have a late lunch and be totally satisfied with our mornings…
I am thinking about this after listening to a friend talk about her daughter and also because we have been in Wellington having our wonderful social burl and I am feeling myself start to do the thing I do where I am present in body but absent in mind and I have to try hard to disguise this because sometimes engaging is just too hard. H is so much better at this as if her friends don’t want to play her thoughts she just goes off to do it by herself, except I have noticed that after two weeks at Everyone Out (best holiday programme ever) she is starting to argue with her friends. We need to get home to be in a space where it is acceptable to be present yet absent. I think this is why Helena is complaining that she spends too much time away and not enough time at home.
What do kids at school do? If you have a vivid life in your head how do you cope at school where the conditions are such that you have to go into your head (all that waiting for others) yet you keep being interrupted by other kids and teachers… What about the kids that have stuff after school? When do they get to be away with the fairies solving problems, being creative, imagining better answers, a better life, an adult life? There is this idea that at school children should always be engaged in some activity, and staring into space is slacking off… Reading is a legitimate time filler, as is “active relaxation” doing the thinking while say biking/gardening.. even socialising is more acceptable than sitting and staring into space.
Maybe we, teachers/adults, shouldn’t be always desperately trying to engage learners but should find ways that they can be inside their heads without interruption and when they come out to play we then offer them things they may be interested in.