Toys, TOYS, and POYS

Mostly Educational

Toys, TOYS, and POYS

March 26, 2021 by Tom Deighan

My generation reminisces about go-kart tracks, Putt-Putt and TG&Y, but our young parents will inevitably pine for another relic: Toys R Us. Big box stores have toys, but the journey through cosmetics, hardware, or housewares can ruin the joy. Virtual toy shopping can’t be much better than virtual clothes shopping, for what look’s good online rarely looks the same at home. Millennials and Gen Z are now becoming parents, and I fear they will miss sharing big toy stores with their kids, and a stuffed Geoffrey just won’t do it.

Kids once frolicked down aisles of weird and wacky toys. Top it off with a jump in the ball pit and fast-food, and you had a cheap vacation! But sadly, toy stores are extinct and COVID has closed all remaining ball pits (hopefully). Welcome to the club, young parents, but unfortunately, your generation gap may be accelerated, so be prepared for moist eyes as you tell your toddlers tales of the lost wonderland for kids. (Many of us old folks assumed TG&Y stood for toys, games, and yo-yos, so we understand your pain.) Don’t worry, however, when you’re forced to jump across the generation gap, there’s plenty of room here on the other side. We have a Jitterbug waiting for you.

This time of year, districts across Oklahoma celebrate another type of TOY, Teachers of the Year. All TOYS are different, but the competition is nevertheless fierce, not because of their attitudes but of their qualities. Of course, each is an expert instructor, but subject matter does not set them apart. Instead, your local TOYS share a different kind of fellowship. They are known for hands-on learning and for caring deeply – their warmth, their kindness, and their patience. Bringing dogs to school. Putting glitter in hair. Vulnerable moments. Safe spaces during family tragedies. Finding hidden gems in all children. Teaching four-year-olds and seniors with the same gentleness. Playing on the playground. Celebrating those Aha! moments and putting relationships before rigor. Such are the qualities and attitudes that make Teachers of the Year, across Oklahoma, in your community and in mine.

Barely a year ago, many “experts” foretold of a time without teachers. “Computers,” they said, “will eventually replace schools. Algorithms can better diagnose a child’s academic progress!” Then, schools closed. Parents and teachers quickly rediscovered a deep appreciation for each other. Suddenly, real live teachers are back at the top of the charts. They are not alone, however, because the value of parents has skyrocketed, too. Millions stepped into both roles, spending many midnights at the kitchen table. They might deserve some TOY (or POY, Parent of the Year) recognition as well. Parents have always been the most important educators in a child’s life, but COVID helped us rediscover the partnership. Our closure last spring was certainly enough to learn this lesson. Ah, the simple joys of school!

God willing, future parents will not struggle to explain the concept of live teachers to their children. Our progeny may never know the joy of racing down the aisles of Toys R Us, but neither may they ever again know the loneliness and isolation of an education through touch-screen. Yes, some children thrive with virtual learning, but the pandemic has reaffirmed that education is as social as it is cerebral, more rhythm than algorithm. Learning will certainly look different as we move forward, but the living touch of parents and teachers are more cherished than ever. (And by teacher, I mean bus drivers, cooks, secretaries, aides, principals, and others, too. Likewise, parent-roles are often supported by nurturing adults that surround them.) None of us can do this alone, and none of us are virtual people, least of all our kids.

To our TOYS across the state, congratulations! And to our countless POYS, infinite thanks! As for toy stores, we will miss you, but maybe someone just needs to do it bigger and better: a giant toy store with putt-putt, go-karts, and a food court. No ball pits, however. Some things should stay in the past, and I think even Geoffrey would agree.

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