I am a list maker. Anyone who lives or works with me knows that I write them obsessively. On post-it notes, in my diary, in little books, on scraps of paper.
I think they might drive the people around me a bit crazy…
I have lists of things to do: for today, in half term, to tell my work colleagues.
Then there are the lists of things I want to remember: books I have read as an adult, books I read as a child and want to pass onto my children, films I love, places we have been on holiday, words I like, and more recently a list of all the new words and phrases related to the pandemic (I thought this would jog my memory one day when someone much younger than me asks about it).
When each of my children were born, I made lists of names we liked and their meanings.
Way back, for a friend’s hen night, I made a list of pros and cons for keeping her own last name or changing to her fiancé’s (she kept her own - if you’re wondering!).
When our family were deciding whether to relocate, I made a list of the pros and cons of staying or going (we stayed – thankfully as it turned out).
Throughout my life, lists have helped me remember things (daily or long term) and have helped me make decisions. They comfort me, support me, make me feel ‘in control’.
Some of you may know the lovely ‘first reader’ books by Arnold Lobel, originally published in the 1970s, about Frog and Toad. There is one story called A List, in which Toad writes a list of everything he will do that day:
Go to Frog’s House
Take Walk With Frog…
As he does each thing, he crosses it off his list (and yes, I do that too). But then, while on said walk with Frog, a gust of wind blows the list out of Toad’s hand.
‘What will I do without my list?’ cries Toad.
Frog suggests running after it, but Toad says no. Frog asks why not?
‘Because’, wailed Toad, ‘running after my list is not one of the things that I wrote on my list of things to do!’
Ahhh, the wisdom in those words. The problem with lists is that we stick to them. We rely on them. And we forget to be spontaneous, to look at what is happening right now in front of us, in this moment.
There has been a lot of talk about lists in early years education recently, with the publication of the new Development Matters and the new ELGs. Educators are thinking about how we have recorded young children’s learning in the past (maybe by looking at a list of statements and, dare I say it, ticking them), and how we could do it differently.
Perhaps we could all learn a lesson from Toad.
Edited by Jules