Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday SOL Negotiating strong feelings

 This is a Tuesday "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers. Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.
First, a vent - to think, just a few weeks ago, I was blogging each day; the sheer frequency of it seemed to make me more organized...I don't remember feeling as rushed and almost 'caged' as I do right now - nearly 9 pm, and I haven't made a Tuesday blog post - yieeeee!!! Get on with it, Maureen!

[Yes, the names are fictitious!! But the story is real!]

Today, during centers -

She ran up to me and declared, "Ms. Ingram, I am very frustrated, because [Shelby] is mad at me because I don't say his name right, and I told him that this is the only way I can say it, because I can't say it the right way."

She is well aware that she has difficulty articulating the "SH" sound, which - unfortunately for her - is part of his name. Her "SH" is much more like an "S" sound; thus, she says "Selby" not "Shelby."

Me - "Shall we go talk to him, you and I, together?"

"No, I'm not going to play with him."

I wonder if any of my preschoolers have figured out that I believe the main purpose of my work is to help them understand one another? to communicate? to learn to speak up to one another and to listen to one another?

Let the negotiations begin.

I found Shelby, playing by himself with the counting bears. I asked, "Is anything wrong with you and [Kristen]?

He asserted, "Yes, I don't want her to talk to me anymore because she calls me Selby and my name is Shelby."

Two bright, strong-willed preschoolers,
looking for justice,
looking for understanding,
looking for friendship.

Me - "[Kristen] is sad about this. Do you know that [Kristen] is trying really, really hard to say 'Shelby' but that she hasn't quite learned how to say 'Sh'? She is trying to teach her mouth to say 'Sh' but so far it only comes out 'ssssss.' "

Him - "I don't like that. I'm not going to play with her until she says it right. That's my name."

Me - "Yes, this is very important to you. Our names are very important. But, I'm thinking, you don't know how to write your name yet, do you? You know how hard it is for you to hold the pencil, and how frustrated you get, trying to write those words? You want to quit, but, you don't, you keep trying, because you are learning."

He looks at me wide-eyed.

Me - "[Kristen] knows how to write letters. She can write your name very well. And you say your name very well. You both know how to do something very well, and you are both learning something very hard. We are all good at some things and working on some things. [Kristen] is working on saying your name."

"Maybe she could help you learn to write your name and you could help her pronounce your name."

Him - "Or, maybe, if she can't say my name, she can call me a new name!"

I couldn't help chuckling, at the sheer unexpectedness of this. "Well, that is a good idea. What do you think she could call you, in the meanwhile, while she is learning your name?"

Him - "How about 'Mister Blue'? "

I smiled, and echoed, spontaneously, "Mister Blue?!"

We walked over to [Kristen], to share this idea with her - and, my oh my, what a huge grin she had at this suggestion.
"That is a silly idea!," she laughed.
And Shelby laughed, too.
They laughed, together.

Now you see - I have the best job in the world!
I am witness to their compromises,
their growing communication skills,
their budding friendships.
Preschoolers are absolutely delightful!


  1. I loved your story. Using dialogue was the perfect way to tell it. I felt like I was right there with you. These moments where we pause, thoughtfully listen, and help students work through challenges are so important. I had to laugh that a new name seemed the perfect solution.


  2. If we just let them talk and think, we really don't need to do more, do we? They will figure it out beautifully without much else. I too love the way you shared this, Maureen, letting us in on the action, and I loved the way you handled it, too.

  3. What a creative response from your (Shelby)