"Oh grow up - won't you?" Anyone who has ever worked with children has said something like this, to try and put some order into a situation. The assumption seems to be that older is better, that by simply getting older, children will somehow gain a greater sense of maturity. Growing up is thought to be a good thing. Ironically, people are also warned not to get old. Old has somehow become a pejorative term meaning passe, run down or washed up. The challenge becomes how to pair the energy and creativity of youth with the wisdom and maturity of greater years. Its a paradox really. How can a person grow up without getting old?
Great minds have considered the question. George Bernard Shaw said "People don't stop playing because they grow old, they grow old because they stop playing!" One need only look round the dressing room of an old-timers hockey team to see how play helps keep a person feeling younger. Picasso said "All children are artists". For educators, the challenge becomes how to guide and channel youthful artistry into later years without stifling its creativity.
British comedian Bob Monkhouse used to say that "Growing old is compulsory, growing up, optional". Getting old might be undesirable but growing up can be embraced by all. In 1956 Dorothy Carnegie wrote the book "Don't Grow Old, Grow Up". Its chapters include such topics as Responsibility - the first step towards maturity, and three great rules for mental health; know yourself, like yourself and be yourself. Written over half a century ago, Carnegie's message still has much to offer in the present day.
21st century learners recognize that growing up IS better than just getting old. Watch the adults at a school and you'll quickly see the ones who are young at heart. They're the ones who engage with students so that both come away enriched. The youthful energy of the students vitalizes and renews the adults, while the attention and acknowledgement of the grown ups validates, guides and encourages the students! Finding that balance between youthful creativity and the serious business of growing up has never been so important. Instead of a frustrated cry for better behavior, the call to "Grow up" should be an encouragement for students to bring their energy and creativity to all their education matters.