“We don’t do Show and Tell here.”
It was a bold proclamation.
Especially because it was nowhere on the daycare orientation agenda.
Show and Tell is a staple of early education curricular design. It is as familiar as Play-Doh and and the “Clean Up” song.
How many times have you done Show and Tell in your life?
1, 2, maybe 3. Perhaps even 5. The number might even be higher depending on how your elementary school teachers repackaged the concept. It iterates into “About Me” posters and generic “what I did over my summer vacation” narratives.
But I would actually wager to say for most of us that the amount of Show and Tell in our lives isn’t a quantifiable amount, so much as a state of being. So can you really cancel it?
The Daycare That Doesn’t
The warning that lunches must be peanut and tree-nut free solicited fierce nodding. The reminder that closed shoes were necessary for stomping in the mulch during playground time was met with nods.
But the director’s plea that families dress their children in clothes that are appropriate for playing with shaving cream, fingerpainting, and gluing anything their sticky little hands can reach had already drifted out into the audience like a lead balloon. Or the Hindenburg.
Most families were still working through the idea of sending their children out in public in anything less than their best when the director quickly added, “We don’t do show and tell here.”
It was a sucker punch, really.
At first, there were a few inhales, only slightly more audible than usual, and some raised eyebrows. Then, the whispering started.
The director soldiered on. Sure, the kids could talk about new toys, but it wasn’t appropriate to bring them it. There were plenty of toys in each of the rooms already. They had already been vetted for choking hazards. The facility couldn’t be responsible for broken or lost items. She didn’t want families to have to scramble back after hours on a frantic quest to find a beloved toy that was left behind.
After a few more beats, she proceeded to the next agenda item. And then the next. Then, the orientation was over.
But it left me wondering if this director could really cancel Show and Tell.
Show and Tell As Life
The families seated in the audience at that daycare were playing Show and Tell. The cars they drove. The clothes they wore. The handbags they slung over their shoulders. Expensive, expensive, and obviously designer.
I was too.
Even as someone who has made a concerted effort to scale back on consumerism, I, too, play Show and Tell.
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I made sure that there was no evidence of the fact that my son believes my shoulders and arms double as his personal napkin. I also tried to conceal the fact that after a year, he is still a terrible sleeper who is wreaking havoc on my skin. I made sure that my engagement and wedding rings were securely on my finger, though I admittedly did not take the time to rinse the sunscreen out of the nooks and crannies.
While I’ve swapped out my more ostentatious bags (Baby Louis and Little Gucci would have been in good company that evening) for a plain black leather one, anyone with an eye can likely tell it’s designer. Even with my sensible Camry and simplified coiffure, I am still sending a message.
I might not be the most showy anymore. I certainly wasn’t the most tell-y that evening. But there is no denying the fact that I was also playing Show and Tell.
Can You Really Cancel Show and Tell?
I’ve had over a week to ruminate on this. The Western world, with it’s love of consumerism, next generation technology, and magazine-cover-model worship, isn’t just playing Show and Tell. We’ve turned it into a business. The biggest, really.
Of course, there’s been some backlash. Some desire to downshift, to minimize, to simplify, simplify, simplify. But even as more and more people flex their muscle, tighten their purse strings, and pledge, “Out, damned clutter!”, Show and Tell remains. Or maybe it simply rebrands.
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There will always be signs. There will always be signifiers and the signified, as much as any first year English major stuck in Semiotics 101 might wish there wasn’t. Objects will always communicate meaning. So will the absence of objects.
Maybe this daycare has good reason to do away with Show and Tell. The list was pretty convincing from where I sat. But I’m not sure that it will ever really be cancelled.
So Tell Me…Are you on board with daycares ditching Show and Tell? Do you think we, the grown ups, ever will?