What's your work?

There's a piece of Montessori vocabulary I love. It's called "work." 

It refers to the children's play, because their play is their work. It's how they learn. So in Hadley's preschool, you'll often hear teachers saying, "What kind of work are you doing today?" or "Let's put your work in your take-home folder to show your family later." To the uninitiated, it might sound like these kids are getting a crash course in the 9-5 world, but it's exactly the opposite.

Montessori teachers have the idea of work right, and our culture has it wrong. 

We think work is what you get paid to do. It's a job, a task to pay the bills. If it doesn't pay, it's not work. Play is the opposite of work. It's extra, the first thing to get cut when life gets busy. It doesn't really matter.

Does your play help you grow as a person? Does your passion stretch your comfort zone and push you to your limits? Is it fulfilling? Too bad. It doesn't count.

But I think it does.

If you take away the children's work, their play, you're left with repetitive worksheets and standardized tests for five-year-olds---and let's face it: those things aren't working. They result in robot children who hate learning and view school as a stepping-stone to a practical college major that will land them a high-paying job that they don't really like.

And if you take away adults' work, our passion projects and our creative pursuits, we're left with much the same thing. We're robots, exhausted and burned out by day jobs we hate and ruled by technology. We can't justify spending time on things that are "just for fun." We're not willing to take a pay cut to save a tiny shred of our souls. 

So here's a question for you: What's your work? Your real work, the stuff that makes you come alive? 

Paycheck or not, it's worth treating every bit as seriously as your full-time job.