Thursday, November 17, 2011

What about those sharing struggles?

A vignette.

Six children working at the clay table,
rolling, patting, pounding.
They have recently discovered the clay knives, and they are cutting things out, digging deep into the clay.

One shows me the tunnel he has made and inquires,
"Do you want to know how I do this? Well, I scooted this [tool] into bottom of this hole and then I lift it out, see?"
I smile.
Things are moving merrily along, everyone is happily engaged, when all of a sudden . . .

I hear a loud shriek from one of the children-
"He took that from me!"

Time stands still.

She had been using a blue cutting tool, and I see that another boy is now using it. He used to have a red one.
[Funny, how this fact stayed in my mind...why do I even remember that this was how the tools were divvied up?]
I'm thinking and watching, as she continues to shriek,
"He took that from me! From ME! From ME!"

Hmmm. I haven't seen this boy take things from others before. Well, it's not my place to presume. Just deal with the tension. Help the children to solve this conflict together.

Time stands still.

I turn to the boy, "I see you have a blue tool. I remember you having a red tool."
He points to the girl, "She has it."
The girl gives an angry glare, fists are knotted, one is knotted tightly around a red tool.

Ah, the stuff of threes. Mind you, these two tools are virtually identical.

Time stands still.

I turn to the girl, "I see you have a red tool. I remember you having a blue tool."
She continues her angry glare.
I add, "You are upset that you don't have your blue tool. How did you get a red tool?"
She responds, "I took it from him. I wanted it."
Me, again - "Oh. Did you take it because he had taken your blue tool?"
She gives me an angry glare. Clearly, I am missing her point!

The boy speaks up, "She took my red tool. And then, I took her blue tool. I need one for my clay."
Oh. "How did you feel when she took your red tool?" I asked the boy.
He answers, "I no like it. I need it."

I turned to the girl, "How did you feel when he took the blue tool from you?"
She continues to glare. But I can see that she is thinking about this. Truly, it is the thought that counts.
I let the question soak in. Silence, for a moment. Then I ask, "Do you wish you had both tools? Do you want to have BOTH of the tools?," I ask the girl.
She nods.

"Let's begin again. Ask him if you might use the blue tool for awhile. He might say 'yes,' he might say 'no.' But he is using it and you must ask him before taking."

"And the same goes for you," I said to the boy, "If you want to use the red tool and she has it, you need to ask her if you may use it. Let's start over..."

I return both tools to their original "owners." I coach them through their respective scripts. As I expected, the boy says "no" to giving up his blue tool. He goes back to working on his clay. There is no further discussion or negotiations.

But, my girl still has her angry glare. I know that she hasn't totally bought into this resolution.

I put my arm around her shoulder. "You want it all, don't you? It is hard to be using the clay tools with others. But, we are working together - all of us are sharing the same materials. We need to take turns with the tools."

This vignette also shows the necessity of slowing things down for children, making time stand still, taking the time to listen to children and allowing them to listen and learn from each other.

I don't always have such patience, but I strive to.

Threes vary so much in their developmental ages. This little girl still has a lot of that "all about me" behavior that one associates with two year olds. She is reacting to others, but not yet demonstrating a lot of concern about others.

Slowing down to negotiate these conflicts with children (rather than for children) fosters social-emotional growth, encourages the development of empathy.

I know that there will be many more of these sharing issues in the weeks and months to come. It will feel - when I have the same discussion over and over again - as if time is standing still. I'm okay with that. I believe these sharing struggles offer some of the best learning opportunities for children.

I know it will take time.
I know it is time well spent.

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