Once during a staff meeting, the teachers were complaining about their heavy teaching load and asked me, as principal, if I could eliminate playground duty from their schedules. I responded by proposing that their weekly hour in the playground is perhaps their best opportunity, as educators, to truly get to know their pupils. In the classroom, the children are directed by an adult teacher as to what to do or not to do, what to learn and how to learn it. Only in the playground will you see one child acting out his dream to be a pilot, and another group of children playing judge and jury. Only at the playground will you get a true glimpse of their imagination.

Children are blessed with a natural ability to believe in themselves and to imagine great accomplishments for their future lives. They have not had enough bad past experiences to limit their belief in what they are capable of achieving. Their future is not limited by their past — only by how far their imagination can take them.

All too often, when a child comes to us and tells us about his dreams and aspirations, we dampen it with our own cynicism. Interestingly enough, that's not the approach we take when, for example, our child is learning to walk or talk. Even if the child did not pronounce the word properly, or she took a few steps and fell down, we wouldn't criticize her and say, "Why, that's not how that word is pronounced at all! And what a way to walk! Oh, you'll never walk or talk properly." Rather, we encourage her to keep trying by making a big deal out of every word or step she takes. We understand that the more we encouraged her, the harder she will try and the greater her achievements will be.

We should take the same approach to a child's inner life. We should nurture his dreams and encourage her imagination regardless of the fact that it is not yet perfect. For such encouragement will help them achieve far beyond what they would otherwise be capable of achieving.

And it's not just good parenting — we'll gain from it too. Standing in the playground and watching our children at play can turn out to be a useful source of encouragement for us adults, as well. Most adults do not pursue their life's dreams — perhaps because they are too afraid of failure, perhaps because they do not believe enough in their own capabilities. If we took a closer look at our children and learned from them how to imagine and believe, we, too, could reach much greater heights than ever imagined.

Try it — it works!