Wednesday, June 07, 2017

"Me" Into "We"

Yesterday was the first day of our summer program. I'm teaching the afternoon session this go around which means, because of typical napping schedules (or at least the napping schedules to which parents tend to aspire) there aren't many two or three-year-olds enrolled, so I have a collection of primarily four, five, and six-year-olds with me for the next couple weeks. Most of them are kids I know, either from the regular school year or from previous summers, and a few know one another.

One thing I always forget during the intervening months, and then remember as the kids assemble on the first day, is how much of what I do with children, both consciously and unconsciously, is geared toward creating a "team." Or in non-baseball coach parlance: building a community, because that is the soil from which progressive, play-based education grows. Of course, it starts with each unique, individual child, but over time, as we come together day-after-day, what we are ultimately doing is turning from a collection of "me" to an inclusive "we."

Over the long-haul of a school year, we can take our time evolving, going through stages and phases, working through our emotions, figuring out who these other people are and how we fit among them. But we don't have a long-haul during the summer: we will only convene as a community for six two-and-a-half-hour sessions before heading off into the rest of our individual summers. Some will attend other sessions, of course, but despite knowing me, knowing our playground, and even knowing something of our overarching culture (or "third teacher" in the metaphor used in the Reggio Emilia approach) each time will be like starting all over because the most important part of what we do at the Woodland Park Cooperative School is this process of becoming a community.

I know from experience that we'll make headway each day, discovering a little more about who we are together, and what we learn will, in turn, shape the following day until, by a week from Thursday, we will have become something bigger and better than when we first convened. I don't know what that is going to be, but I do know that it will come through our conflicts and big emotions; through working together, making agreements, and discovering new things about ourselves; and through the ritual practice of coming together again and again. There will be some who are outraged when they figure out next week that it's already over and others who are even this morning telling their parent that they would really rather not return today because the work is hard.

This isn't to say that what the kids experience and learn over the next couple weeks isn't important because any time we are working on "we," be it as part of a community built for a day or a lifetime, we are doing the work we are here to do. Step-over-step we'll become who we are together. We'll do it for six afternoons and at the end of the final one we will have made something new under the sun, something uniquely our own. We will have turned "me" into "we."

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1 comment:

Lisa M said...

Competition is about "me" but Democracy is about "we". It's what I keep trying to instill in my teens. It's a never ending battle that constantly needs tweaking in the "me" oriented world we live in today.

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