Thursday, January 03, 2008


I is for Immaturity

For years, I’ve heard teachers, and adults in general, speak of “immaturity” as though it’s a negative quality, but according to my dictionary, immaturity actually means the ability to continue to grow. If a plant, animal, or person is mature, by definition they are fully grown, and thus are unable to develop any further. An immature organism, on the other hand, is still totally immersed in its own process of growth – sprouting, rising, spreading, and reaching. In reality, immaturity – the ability to develop and expand and extend ourselves – is a quality we should hope to retain right up to our final breath. Does this mean I want my students to act “in an immature manner”? Yes, if that means acting like people whose lives are growing, changing, enlarging, strengthening, and intensifying. Yes, if it means acting like teenagers who are still at the very beginning of their emotional and intellectual growth – kids whose minds and hearts are expanding at breakneck speeds almost by the hour. Does it mean, too, that I, their 66-year-old teacher, should behave immaturely? Yes, if that means still being wide open to learning immeasurably more about teaching than I’ve ever known. And yes, if it means realizing that I would have to teach many, many more years if I want to even approach being “fully grown” as an educator.

Perhaps I should post a sign at the entrance to my classroom: “NO MATURE PEOPLE ALLOWED”.

(Note: Much of my thinking about the positive nature of "immaturity" comes from John Dewey's Democracy and Education.)

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