"My imagination has been hacked". I shudder when I think of the opportunity for growth and self awareness that would have been missed had I dismissed these 5 simple words spoken by my 7 year old daughter as she sat drawing quietly in the sun. I glanced up from my computer keyboard, annoyed by the distraction, wishing she would just keep herself occupied and stop disturbing me.
But it was clear from the pen marks on her page that something was definitely amiss. There were none of the usual delicate birds or intricate pathways around the garden that she normally drew, in their place there was an angry tangle of lines with no discernible order and a scared look in her eyes.
I suddenly realised that my breath was caught tightly in my chest. A familiar feeling of fear had taken hold of me, coupled with a nauseous wave of not feeling good enough. I knew instinctively that my computer work needed to wait, that what Stella was expressing was a feeling I had felt at a similar age but had not had the wisdom to express.
"Oh dear", I replied, "that doesn't sound like a good situation to be in, are you sure?" I asked.
"Yep" Stella replied, without hesitation, "they have graffitied and damaged the door to my imagination and now I can't open it".
Totally blindsided, I knew I needed to remain open and safe for Stella to explore the inner workings of her precious mind. What was being revealed through her was an insight into the mind which had long since been shut to me. If I handled the situation insensitively I had the potential to close this doorway to Stella tightly.
"When do you think they got in" I asked, trying not to alarm her but at the same time wanting to help her explore what was happening.
"They came at school today. The teacher asked me to draw the playground and my imagination kept making me do some bits like this (she explained holding her pen in elevation view) and other bits like this (now holding her pen in plan view). The teacher told me I needed to only do it one way but my imagination wouldn't let me, that's when my imagination was hacked".
Gently working through this scenario with Stella I came to realise that what she was trying to express to me was that she had lost confidence in herself because she was doing things differently to what the teacher classified as "normal".
How often is this situation repeated in our current system of education? How often do we shut the door tightly to the knowing of a child's mind?
Those 5 simple words "my imagination has been hacked" have opened my mind to the knowing that in so many ways we have the education system around the wrong way, perhaps it is the children who are the teachers.