Away with the fairies

© 2014 Shelly ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ https://www.sketchport.com/drawing/6517152420986880/fairies. Licensed under CC-BY.

Are you a daydreamer? Were you accused of daydreaming at school? Many of us were. With minds that are easily distracted and work that is less than exciting, it is easy for thoughts to drift away into other realms. It can take anything, or nothing, and it is often difficult to back-track from where we find ourselves, along the path of thoughts to what initiated the journey. It can be no more tangible that the dream that escapes upon waking.

While daydreaming can be pleasant and good for relaxation and creativity, it is often frowned upon in students meant to be concentrating on what they are to learn. Children would probably find it easier to attend if the work was tailored to their needs, initiated by their interests, and involved them as participants rather than recipients. The fifteen minutes of play per hour that Finnish children enjoy would also help, I’m sure, in giving time for minds to be, not corralled into predetermined channels.

In this Conversation on Daydreaming with Jerome L. Singer in Scientific American by Scott Barry Kaufman on 10 December, 2013, Singer says, I think that teachers need to recognize that often, the daydreaming is because some of the kids are bored”.

Whether through boredom or not, daydreaming can sometimes lead to breakthroughs in solving problems, creativity and productivity as described in this CNN article by Brigid Schulte For a more productive life, daydream. Brigid lists a number of daydreamers; including:

  • J K Rowling
  • Mark Twain
  • Richard Feynman
  • Archimedes
  • Newton

Other famous daydreamers include:

  • Einstein
  • Edison
  • J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Boy George
  • Richard Branson

Here are a few other quotes about the importance of daydreaming:

Keith Richards is reported as saying that “Satisfaction”, the Rolling Stones’ most famous hit, came to him in a dream, and

Paul McCartney says the same thing about the Beatles’ hit “Yesterday”.

Neil Gaiman: “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”

George Lucas: “I’m not much of a math and science guy. I spent most of my time in school daydreaming and managed to turn it into a living.”

Professor Elizabeth Blackburn, the first Australian-born female Nobel Laureate, attributes her success as a molecular biologist, in part, to daydreaming.  She is reported by the Sydney Morning Herald to have said, ‘I think you need time to daydream, to let your imagination take you where it can … because I’ve noticed [that] among the creative, successful scientists who’ve really advanced things, that was a part of their life.’

While speaking to students at Questacon in Canberra after receiving her prize, she joked, ”Your parents and your teachers are going to kill me if they hear you say, ‘she told us just to daydream.’

So why is it, if the importance of daydreaming is recognised by successful creatives, thinkers, scientists, and business people, that it is still frowned upon in school? Why do we still insist that children sit at desks, repeating mundane tasks in order to pass tests that have little bearing on their future success or on the future of our species and the planet?

In a previous post I wrote about John Dewey’s dreamof the teacher as a guide helping children formulate questions and devise solutions. Dewey saw the pupil’s own experience, not information imparted by the teacher, as the critical path to understanding. Dewey also contended that democracy must be the main value in each school just as it is in any free society.” According to Pasi Sahlberg in Finnish Lessons, What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? schools in Finland have dreamed their own dream by building upon Dewey’s.

Of course, on a much smaller scale, I have my own dream of a better way of educating our children.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills dreamed a dream and challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a dream. This action could have happened while awake, such as daydreaming, or make up a dream when asleep. Go where the prompt leads as it could be a nightmare or just fond memories or ambition.

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

Off with the fairies

Each year the school reports told the same story:

He’s off with the fairies.

Poor concentration.

Needs to pay more attention.

Daydreamer.

Doesn’t listen in class.

Must try harder.

Needs a better grasp on reality.

Will never amount to anything.

Meanwhile, he filled oodles of notebooks with doodles and stories.

When school was done he closed the book on their chapter, and created his own reality with a best-selling fantasy series, making more from the movie rights than all his teachers combined.

Why couldn’t they see beneath the negativity of their comments to read the prediction in their words?

 

Of course, not all daydreamers become successful, and not all children have a negative schooling experience. For a much more appreciated and positive set of comments, read this post by Elizabeth on Autism Mom Saying Goodbye to Elementary School.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

49 thoughts on “Away with the fairies

  1. Saved you a Spot

    Yes, daydreamers can and are successful. It is important to be able to take a step back from stimuli in order to be stimulated even more. As a teacher however, I do like to see my pupils fully engaged and still have trouble allowing them to drift off during lesson time… Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Peppi, It’s lovely to meet you. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. It is tough as a teacher to be aware of your students daydreaming. Of course we’d rather them pay us their full attention. If the lesson is right for them, they will!

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  2. Hugh's Views and News

    You can find me daydreaming most days, Norah. However, your post did get me thinking if daydreams can turn into daymares? When I think about it, I’ve often jolted out of a daydream and not remembered what made me jump. Could it have been a daymare? 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      A daymare! Now that’s an interesting thought. I don’t see why they wouldn’t exist. Sometimes I think I’m having a daymare but I’m not even dreaming. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. Steven

    Sometimes I think I’m off with the fairies – unfortunately it isn’t by choice. I quite like the irony of your fiction and I would assume that these days school reports wouldn’t normally read like those. However I wonder how often something like that use to happen (and maybe still does).

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hmm. Now you’ve got me thinking – how are you off with the fairies if not by choice? I also hope school reports don’t sound like that any more. What triggered by thinking was listening to Boy George in an interview recently say that his teachers told him he’d never make anything of himself. So many have been told the same thing. I guess not all of them have (made something of themselves), but enough for it to be interesting. Reflecting after writing the piece though, I thought that no girl was probably told that. In those days all girls had to do was get married and raise a family! Another insidious piece of gender bias.

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  4. Mabel Kwong

    I smiled throughout this post, Norah, and smiled even more to read that many renowned artists and creatives have had their best works come out of daydreaming. It is a powerful thing when the mind wanders – it’s a moment when the mind is free, able to think what it wants to think, and make connections that simply just…come about. So in a way, it’s very plausible to see how magical daydreaming is.

    At school I was always one who liked to follow what the teacher said, that is I always paid attention as I was terrified of getting caught not listening (which would then lead the whole class looking at me). When I went to university it was another story altogether. In maths class I would daydream away about my weekends about what I’d do after class, while at the same time copying down maths notes. In those classes I’d dream of becoming a writer…and you know, some of those ideas in those class translated into writing material 😀

    ‘Must try harder.’ Love this line in your lovely poem. It’s a common misconception about daydreamers, that daydreamers don’t put effort into what they do. I think a lot of us forget that trying doesn’t always equate to force – rather it is more about engaging with each other and different thoughts on our mind.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Mabel. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post. I’m sorry you didn’t let yourself daydream in school, but none of us like to be singled out and have everyone looking at us, do we? Unless we are born entertainers!
      I’m pleased some of your university daydreams have been realised, at least in your writing.
      I love your final statements, that ‘trying doesn’t always equate to force’ and ‘it is more about engaging with each other and different thoughts on our mind’.
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

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      1. Mabel Kwong

        Haha, as an introvert I feared being singled out for being the naughty kid in class. Your post got me thinking on how we can cultivate daydreaming in school. I think the more questions teachers ask students and get them to participate, students might be inclined not only to think but let their imagination run wild.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I know! As an introvert, I had the same fear. I was blushing at just the thought of having my name called.
          I’m so pleased my daydreaming post got you thinking. I like the sound of imaginations running wild! 🙂

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  5. Pingback: Dreaming « Carrot Ranch Communications

  6. dgkaye

    I loved this post Norah. Aren’t all artists dreamers? Everyone likes to daydream at one time or another but many creative children like to daydream and if it isn’t with inspiration full of ideas, it could very well be boredom. And lovely and fitting little piece of flash. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Debby. I think that maybe quite a bit of creativity comes from daydreaming. I actually think the ability to daydream prevents boredom. I don’t know what it’s like to be bored. It’s an attitude.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash. Thanks. 🙂

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  7. Charli Mills

    I’ve come over here to do some reading and daydreaming, Norah! I think Anne has captured the why in her comment regarding why we don’t allow children more daydreaming time; adults, either. Social control is more regarded than a happy and compassionate community. I do so much pre-writing in daydreams. It looks deceptively like doing nothing, but I work out so many levels of development that would otherwise take hours to figure out on paper. Finland is doing fascinating work. I’ll help Paula take notes and join you both! Thanks for such an engaging post on daydreaming, complete with soundtrack.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I agree that much of that “spare” daydreaming time is now being given over to techno gadgets. It’s a bit sad. We’re engaged with trivia instead of dreams. Time will tell what difference, if any, it makes. Social control is regarded by some important but I think it is in a state of flux at the moment. Sometimes I think I’d prefer more “control” that comes from respect for others. There seems to be little of that in many circles.
      I can understand that daydreaming is important to a writer of fiction, planning all those bits and pieces in your head, bringing them all together. I wonder how much of a pantser output is actually the product of daydreams, whether aware of them or not. Those ideas that are just out there, that we must lasso before they escape.
      Great, now we’re got three for our excursion to Finland – you, me and Pauline. Perhaps we should open a Kickstarter to fund our research project. 🙂

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      1. Charli Mills

        Sometimes I wonder if social control is for the greater good or to the benefit of the few in power and control. Maybe that’s why things are in flux. They was an interesting HBO series several years back called Deadwood. While it was a raw look at the roughness of a lawless mining camp in the West, it also explored the theme of social control, and how even the anti-community has to form social order.

        Great idea, that pantsers are daydreaming on the page. That may be likely. It’s an important but difficult to define process, daydreaming.

        A Kickstarter might be in order for the Finland research! My goal at Carrot Ranch is to have a non profit to fund travel for writers because that’s often not covered and writers probably sell to travel more than most!

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        1. Norah Post author

          I wish social control was through mutual respect and acceptance; the golden rule – do unto others. Wouldn’t life be easier?
          Daydreaming is difficult to define. We don’t often know we’re doing it, until we’re not. 🙂
          Your goals for Carrot Ranch are admirable. I’m looking forward to seeing them come to fruition.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I appreciate your supportive comment, Patricia, and am not surprised that you, being yourself a creative and a reader, were caught engaged in those activities. I think too many, but not all, teachers forget what it was like to be a child. 🙂

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  8. jeanne229

    I just saw that video by the Finnish teacher, and an excerpt of Michael Moore’s film on education in which he takes a deep look at Finnish education. When the first thing we cut in this country is art and music education, it’s no wonder many students come out of the system with limited ability to imagine, which of course carries over into their lack of direction for their futures. Great clip of the Monkees too 🙂 And perfect flash for the prompt!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jeanne. It is sad to omit arts and music from the curriculum, isn’t it? What a loss to our society. I’m pleased you enjoyed the song and the flash.

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  9. thecontentedcrafter

    Wonderful subject to address Norah! I got hit over the head by a teacher once for day dreaming. It didn’t do me any good 😀 I think it would be really interesting to make an investigative trip to Finland to see first hand how the entire society is structured – because obviously something else is going on too. Corporates aren’t running the education system and parents must also not be brainwashed that if their child isn’t learning faster than anyone else’s child they are failing as parents…………. I think you should make this investigative journey asap and I am happy to let you know I am available to come along to take notes……..

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh my goodness, the things teachers used to do to children. That was back in the “good old days” when teachers were the source of all wisdom. (?) Sometimes I wish we still were. Some things could be easier. But not really. 🙂
      I’d love to go to Finland and check out their education system with you. It would be an amazing experience. I would learn sooooo much. 🙂

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  10. Sarah Brentyn

    I was never accused of daydreaming. But I always was daydreaming. 🙂 ‘Tis what creative types do, no? I LOVE Neil Gaiman’s quote: “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” That’s my favorite. But great collection of them and fantastic post.
    Creativity and daydreaming are so important but, I will say, it’s tough to teach children who are never paying attention to what you’re saying. We can encourage them to think creatively about what we’re learning but, if they’re daydreaming about something totally different, they can’t absorb any information.
    Nice flash and love Daydream Believer! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Ha! Never accused but always were! I wonder how you disguised it. 🙂 I like that quote of Neil Gaiman’s too. I’m certain he must do a lot of daydreaming.
      Yeah, it is important for children to learn stuff – but not necessarily the stuff we want to cram into their heads. It is a dilemma, that’s for sure.
      Thanks for reading and for your kind words.

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  11. Susan Scott

    I’m a fan too of daydreaming and a practitioner! If ever my sons as small boys were ‘bored’ I’d say go play with the fairies at the bottom of the garden – and off they would go. But aside from that, day dreaming plays a significant role in children simply taking time out. In adults too – and there are many examples of how creative ideas came to those who were simply day-dreaming or nighttime dreaming …

    Thanks Norah, lovely post!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      It may sound funny, but I was certain that most readers of this blog would do their share of daydreaming. How could we survive without it? I think telling your “bored” boys to go and play with the fairies is wonderful! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on daydreaming.

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  12. Annecdotist

    I think this chimes very much with your previous post on teaching children the “right” way instead of supporting them to find their own route. There is a conflict in education between genuine development and social control and I guess that at an unconscious level adults are anxious about and envious of children’s daydreaming. But it’s great how in your flash the child wins in the end. It’s a pity those teachers didn’t have your humility and openness to learning from anyone and anywhere to learn from their talented pupil.
    And thanks for the song – I love that one. Interesting how so much of pop music is about dreaming.

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks very much for seeing a connection, that I didn’t, between this post and the last. I hope that means I’m consistent in the views I express about education. I do believe in learning anywhere and from anyone, especially from children!
      That song is certainly from my era and the first that came to mind. 🙂

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  13. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Great post! And, might it be possible then, that the daydreamer in class isn’t bored and escaping, but perhaps is engaged, interacting in an introspective and creative way? Teachers could try helping them to channel it rather than crush it.

    Liked by 4 people

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