Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sad Room

On Wednesday, something happened that has never happened before in our preschool: a child cut himself with a pair of kid scissors.

Isak was having a ball cutting drinking straws with scissors. When I'd been with him earlier, he was experimenting with holding the straws over his head and snipping them suddenly in an effort to make the small bits fly as far as he could get them to go. He wore a look of ecstatic concentration as he sent those pieces flying.

It wasn't long after that I noticed Charlie L.'s mom Shelly huddled with Isak, who was kneeling on the floor. He had managed to cut a finger right at the base. Those scissors aren't sharp. It would have taken quite a forceful snap of the scissors to break the skin. He wasn't crying. Shelly said, "It's a small cut, but there's a lot of blood." We took him into the bathroom to wash it off. When I suggested a bandage, he said, firmly, "I don't want a bandaid." After giving him a couple other opportunities to accept a bandage, Shelly fashioned a crude one from a paper towel, just to staunch the strangely profuse bleeding. I suggested that maybe we could hold it on with some tape. He gave that idea a little thought, he likes tape, but decided against it.

He started crying once we got back into the classroom. When I later spoke with his mother Leslie, she reminded me of a particularly bad cut he'd suffered at home last year, and I learned more about the source of those tears, but even before then they seemed like they came from a place of both anxiety and relief.

Dennis' dad Terry took over from there. I found them on a bench near the snack table. When I arrived on the scene a few minutes later, Terry said, "We're in the Sad Room. This is where Isak is sad." Isak agreed, "This is the Sad Room."

I asked Isak, "Are you bleeding?"

Isak answered, sadly, looking at his finger, "No, I'm not bleeding any more."

"So this is the Sad Room."

"Yes, it's the Sad Room." This is really how Isak talks -- in full sentences.

"We should have a sign that says it's the Sad Room."

Terry said, "That's a good idea. We should have a sign."

Isak didn't express an opinion.

I found a piece of paper and a marker and wrote, A - K - M, while saying, "S - A - D."

Isak studied the letters for a minute. "That's not S - A - D. That's A - K - M." He decided he would have to make the sign.

I spelled out, "S - A - D . . .  R - O - O - M." And Isak carefully made the sign employing those finely toned hand muscles, the ones that had so powerfully cut into his own flesh with a pair of dull scissors.

I held the tape dispenser for him as he tore off a piece and stuck the sign to the wall.

He sat on Terry's lap for awhile, occasionally checking out his sign, then went back to playing.

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Anonymous said...

Tom, I think this post is so interesting! You find learning opportunities in every situation! When in Sweden last year (coming from our cotton wool culture) we were horrified to see an open cupboard with handsaws, hammers, glue guns, everything purposefully within reach of nine year olds. When quizzed about safety issues, the teacher explained that when children use tools inappropriately, they learn from their mistakes. What's your take on this ethos? :)

Teacher Tom said...

@Carly . . . One of our school mantras is "the only way to learn about asphalt is to fall on it." We've been experimenting for the past couple months with having saws, hammers and hand drills available to the kids. We are working very hard to teach them to use the tools properly. Safety with tools is a result of proper technique. That said, you can't sit preschoolers down, lecture them and expect them to get it. The safety lessons have to be taught right alongside hands-on experience. So far we've had no injuries, but I'm under no illusion that this will always be the case. A hammered thumb or a cut finger is part of learning about the proper use of tools.

This summer we're going to actually have the tools out around 2-year-olds. That will be a real experience!

Eternal Lizdom said...

What a truly fantastic story and I love the team work of the adults in the room!

Deborah Stewart said...

That sign is priceless! My husband build my class two saw horses (miniature) a few years ago. I brought it in with hammers, nails, and other tools. It was one of the biggest hits (no pun intended) in the classroom that year.

Deborah Stewart said...

Oh - and I found that I enjoyed working along side the children as they learned to use the tools. There is something about woodworking that is very relaxing.

Barbara Zaborowski said...

I teach preschool in Phoenix, AZ. My class of 4s completely re-furbished a workbench I'd gotten for free from craigslist. With supervision but no direct help, they sawed down all four legs, sanded off the old paint (using sandpaper and then an electric sander), repainted it with donated paint, popped off the old top, and hammered in some extra nails where it was wobbly. The only thing they didn't do was put on the new top, although they did get to watch.
I'm always amazed at how much they can do, given the chance.

Unknown said...

What a great way to work thru pain. I am trying to imagine how you would cut flesh with child scissors. Wow. That had to be a very forceful thrust. I am glad it was quickly forgotten.

Donna said...

Youch! I feel your pain Isak ... Those cuts hurt the worst ... trust me I'm an expert!
Donna :) :)

Zulazoop said...

ouch poor Isak, I when I was in preschool a little boy cut me with kids scissors taking off the top part of the flesh on my finger.