Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lily's Courage Had Rubbed Off On Them

Last week it snowed in Seattle, a fairly rare thing, but it was enough to close the schools. As wonderful as snow days are, arriving back to school on Chinese New Year without a week to prepare was kind of a bummer, so we've decided that this year, at Woodland Park, the new year begins next Monday. 

I knew that this is the Year of the Dragon, but what I didn't know was that it's specifically the Year of the Water Dragon, a bit of information Violet shared with us as we took a look at Demi's magnificently illustrated book Dragons and Fantastic Creatures, one of my top 10 children's books of all time. I don't care how unruly the kids are, when this book comes out, a focused hush falls over them.

Unlike the tradition of western dragons with their fire breathing and gold hoarding, these are good, wise, powerful beings like the Creative Dragon, the Mountain Dragon, the Thunder Dragon, and, of course, the Heavenly Dragon, a dragon so large that the illustration must be folded out four pages wide.

We are a lucky school in that we also own a small parade dragon head. It's actually a lion's head, typically used for the famed lion dance, but it looks to us enough like the dragons we see in our books and parades that we've declared it a "dragon head."

For years I treasured it too much, keeping it out of reach, hanging it from the ceiling as a decoration, but for the last couple years, as I've turned more and more of the children's education over the to the children themselves, I've relaxed my control of the thing.

It takes a lot of courage for most of the kids to wear the dragon head. When we arrived at school yesterday, I danced around with it on for a bit, offering it to the kids, but only Rex took me up on it. As the day wore on, however, more and more of the children were willing to give it a try, although hardly most of them. The reluctance, I'm guessing, has to do with the perceived fierceness of the face. Putting it on is almost like being swallowed by this strange creature. The experience of being inside, on the other hand, with your hearing muffled and eyesight limited, is far different from what one might anticipate from its colorful outward appearance. Most of the children only let the thing sit on their heads for seconds before removing it.

In fact, Lily and Rex were the only two kids who spent any significant time playing inside the dragon yesterday, Lily in particular enjoying her time as the center of attention.

Some of the kids noticed, while Lily was inside, that the mask was dusty and went after it with our new classroom feather dusters. Others enjoyed peeking at their friend through the mouth, opening and closing it in a game of peek-a-boo. It interested me that while the mask had been in the classroom all morning, it was only when Lily animated it that the children really seemed interesting in exploring it, touching the eyes, the whiskers, the bouncing antenna, and the long fabric tail. 

At one point two other children managed to get their heads inside the mask along with Lily, perhaps needing the comfort of others to be in there.

I'm pretty sure Lily would have spent more time as our classroom dragon, but before long there was a queue of children clamoring for their turn. Lily's courage had finally rubbed off on them.

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Anonymous said...

We missed Chinese New Years, too, without the excuse of closed schools. But I decided that it's whenever we say it is, so today we started our celebration with The Boy Who Painted Dragons. I just love that he gains power over his fear by painting dragons and then facing real ones. Tomorrow will be Dragons and Other Fantastic Creatures.

B. Zaborowski said...

Sorry! That was me, Barbara Zaborowski.

Barbara Zaborowski said...

Boy, this is my day for comments. Check this out:

Males in Early Childhood said...

Learning to let go as you put it is just as important fotr the children as what they get out of the lion/dragon head. I too have had special items I have shared with the children only under my close supervision. This year however, I've mad a pact with myself to enable them to have more freedom with such things. They know these things are important to me and usually explore with them appropriately and with resspect. Of course, this is much easier with preschooler than it was last year with the toddlers.

Congratulations on your latest professional growth.

ReflectiveTeacher said...

It is great to see role play being used and the students being empowered by it.
It is often something we overlook in high school.

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