Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Teaching Matters

Nina Griscom, Dana Creel, Chairman’s Council Co-Chair Ingrid Edelman, Olga Votis, Lynette Guastaferro, and Chairman's Council Co-Chair Patricia Farman-Farmaian.
Teaching Matters: The extensive benefits of unsupervised play
by Delia von Neuschatz


Want to be happy? Then you need these three factors according to psychiatrist Samantha Boardman: a sense of autonomy, a sense of competence and a sense of belonging. This holds true for young and old alike. And when it comes to children, there is something that will confer these attributes like nothing else: play. Just play. The extensive benefits of unsupervised play and unstructured free time was the subject of Counterintuitive! Challenging Assumptions About Raising Competent and Creative Children in the 21st Century, a panel discussion held by the educational nonprofit Teaching Matters on Tuesday, February 7th a private club. 
Founded by Elizabeth Rohatyn, Teaching Matters’ mission is to develop and retain talented teachers and measurably increase their ability to give students in urban public schools an excellent education, thereby equalizing the playing field for inner-city children.
Founded by Elizabeth Rohatyn, Teaching Matters’ mission is to develop and retain talented teachers and measurably increase their ability to give students in urban public schools an excellent education.

In addition to Dr. Boardman, panelists at Tuesday’s breakfast discussion included Lenore Skenazy, founder of the blog Free-Range Kids and Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator and New York Times best-selling author.
L. to r.: Samantha Boardman, M.D., founder of PositivePrescription.com, is Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry and Attending Psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College;

Erika Christakis is an early childhood educator and New York Times best-selling author of The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need from Grownups. “Once you start seeing how capable kids are, how much they don’t actually need us, you learn to back off,” reveals Ms. Christakis;

Journalist Lenore Skenazy was dubbed “World’s Worst Mom” after her article “Why I Let My 9 Year Old Ride the Subway Alone” went viral. She is the founder of a blog and author of a book, both named Free-Range Kids. “Kids don’t need a security detail every time they leave the house, especially in this era of low crime rates,” she says.
Attendees included Nina Griscom, Dana Creel, Veronica Bulgari, Serena Altschul, Patty Hambrecht, Lisa Errico, Alexandra Stanton, Ingrid Edelman, and Patricia Farman-Farmaian.

“There’s a decline of play today and play is very important because children learn through play,” says Ms. Christakis. “They learn how to manage their time and how to get along.” Furthermore, according to the panelists, the free time accorded to play and the attendant autonomy fuels creativity and fosters confidence.
Nina Griscom, Chairman's Council Honorary President of Teaching Matters, introducing the speakers (from left to right), Lenore Skenazy, Erika Christakis and Dr. Samantha Boardman.
“When did we all become so afraid?” wonders Ms. Skenazy who has been dubbed “World’s Worst Mom” for letting her nine year old son find his way home in Manhattan using public transportation. “We think getting kids to leave the house is a great idea for their health! Their development! Their happiness! (And our own sanity! And carpets!) Remember your own childhood? You can give a lot of that sweet freedom to your kids. It so happens that unsupervised play is the best way to develop leadership in your kids,” declares the founder of the anti-overprotection movement.
The Importance of Being Little and Free-Range Kids.
“We’ve become so fear-based, that we don’t give our kids the ability to develop,” concurs Ms. Christakis. “We aren’t doing a good job seeing what kids can do. We are communicating a loss of faith even in the ‘best and brightest’ kids.” But, there is hope because “once you start seeing how capable kids are, how much they don’t actually need us, you as a parent, learn to back off.” 

And it’s not just children who benefit from a little bit of freedom. Their parents profit too. A point made during the discussion was that working women today actually spend more time with their children than women who stayed at home a generation or two ago, yet report lower levels of happiness. So, for the sake of your own mental well-being and that of your children, just let your kids go out and play — and maybe even take the subway!
Nina Griscom and Samantha Boardman, M.D. Patty Hambrecht.
Nina Griscom and Lynette Guastaferro, Executive Director of Teaching Matters.
Alexandra Stanton and Olga Votis, Chairman of Teaching Matters. Simone Mailman.
Dana Creel and Lisa Errico.
Dana Creel, Chairman's Council Co-Chair of Teaching Matters, and Veronica Bulgari. Serena Altschul.
Photographs by Sharon Rubinstein