Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What We Do Together

We do not command the children to participate in clean up time, but most of them, on most days, do. I have a drum I "bang," then start singing a clean-up song.

Before doing that, however, as time approaches, I engage in conversations with the kids. I might ask, "Should we bang the drum now or wait a little?" Typically, the answer is, "Wait a little," or "Two more minutes," although there are always a few who are eager for an immediate transition. I go from child to child, posing questions and making statements like, "I'm thinking of banging the drum." I listen and repeat the responses back to them, "You want to wait a few minutes" or "Zane wants to clean up now." I try to make my process transparent to the children: I'm gathering data, not granting wishes. More importantly, it's about starting the conversation, moving the idea of moving on into our public consciousness.

Some children like to plan or otherwise noodle things over and a little bit of scheduling information is helpful.

"After we clean up, we wash our stinky hands."

"After we clean up, we sing songs."

"After we clean up, we go outside."

Others are truly engaged and they make their case for waiting. I answer, "I think we should wait to bang the drum. Tell me when you're ready." Usually, they are ready within a few minutes.

The majority object to clean up time in a knee jerk fashion, then, after thinking about it, kind of cotton to the idea of moving on to something else and, as the conversation continues, find themselves shifting to the "bang the drum" camp. On most days, within two minutes of starting the conversation, there are children in our Pre-3's class commanding me, "Bang the drum." Older kids tend to start talking to each other, "I want to go outside. Let's clean up," sometimes getting the project started even before I've banged the drum. When these things start happening I figure it's time to bang the drum.

No child participates every day. Some do more work than others. The children engaged in cleaning up don't typically care. It's only we adults who think it's a chore. It's only we adults who worry about "justice." That's why we don't do anything about the children who don't participate other than to ask them to stay out of our way.

But most children, on most days, pick up those blocks and hang up those costumes. It's just part of what our community does together before moving on to something else.

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