Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I'll Let You Know How It Goes

Yesterday, as we cleaned up the Duplos, River made a point of not participating. He walked around in circles, looking busy, but not lending a hand. There were four boxes that needed to be filled and 7-8 kids were doing the work as he paced. 

I went through my usual routine of "noticing" the kids who were pitching in ("I see Sylvia putting away Legos," "Sadie is picking up a lot of blocks," "Parker is putting away a red one."). At one point I made the informative statement, "That box is full." River made a beeline for it. Given his slightly agitated milling about behavior, I wondered if he was going to dump it. He picked it up and looked my way. I said, "It can go on top of that shelf," and that's where he it put it, along with the other three boxes as they were declared full.

Every class takes on a unique character and this year's group, from what I can tell as we start into our third month together, seems to be all about pitching in, not because some adult says so, but because that's the kind of community they are forming together. I wrote about it yesterday, but I really could write about it every day.

We have a collection of river rocks, which I sometimes use in the sensory table. Last spring, I combined them with a bunch of florist marbles in water and when we cleaned-up everything got mixed together. I've wanted to separate them, but it never seemed quite worth the time it would take. Last week, however, I just put the 5 gallon bucket on the floor, broke out a pair of tubs and said, "We need the rocks to go into this one and the jewels to go into this one."

And it happened during the next half hour or so. When 3-year-old Simone came across a thumbtack that had over the course of the intervening months fallen in with the rocks and jewels, she carefully picked it up, handing it to me, saying, "You should put this away, Teacher Tom, the little kids might get hurt," referring to the Pre-3 class. When George discovered a small magnet in there, he lead a group in a brief exploration of where it might and might not stick around the classroom.  

We then took the jewels outdoors to "hide" in the outdoor classroom for "the kids to play with." When they talked about "the kids" it didn't seem like they were talking about themselves, but rather some other group of children on whose behalf they were working.

But it's been like this all year, most notably during clean-up time. Sure, there are few kids every day who avoid it, but most of them on most days are into it. In fact, it's become almost competitive as they strive to outdo one another in their efforts. The pictures above and below this paragraph show what happened when I said that a couple of our orange boxes needed to go into the hallway. If they were bickering among themselves, it was over who got to do the work. At least one child was upset because he got left out of helping with the boxes.

I take pride in the fact that our 3-5 class, generally speaking, over the years, has largely pitched in with  things like clean-up. I enjoy announcing, for instance, "We need help at the play dough table," and watching the surge of children head that way. Or suggesting, "Let's get these easels put away," and moving the things with a dozen little hands helping me guide it through the classroom and out the door. People often ask me what I do about those who don't help out. In layman's terms, I ignore them; not crossly, but matter-of-factly, making observational statements about the kids who are engaged, while not commenting on those who are not. It's not uncommon for a child who is attempting to sit it out, and therefore not hearing his own name in my running dialog about what is happening in the room, to then try to lure me into a conversation. I answer, "I'm sorry, it's clean-up time. I can only talk about clean-up right now You'll have to save it for circle time." I'm not saying we have 100 percent participation every day, and there have always been a kid or two who chose to quietly hole up in a corner as we go into action, but most of the kids, most of the time have chosen to pitch in.

I swear, however, that this years class achieves full participation on most days, filling boxes, shelving toys, moving furniture. Some, like River did yesterday, might wait for a particular job. Some might only put one or two things away, but they are all involved.

Perhaps it's only one of those "fads" that sweep through the school each year, one I'll be remembering fondly come the December holidays, but it's incredible while it's here.

Yesterday morning as I was distributing artwork into the children's cubbies, one of the least favorite parts of my job, I suddenly asked myself, "This isn't my art, it's their art. Shouldn't the children be doing this themselves?" 

I'll let you know how it goes.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Teacher Tom. This is refreshing. I try doing the same in my family child care. I make comments about the ones cooperating. At this moment, not only I have one or two children that do not pitch in, but also, I have one child who tries to "lure" others into NOT helping clean up. If I ignore him, we end up having him or a group of two or three who follow him, who do their own routine, at their own time. I am debating if to let everyone do things at their own time or stick to the routine or schedule that we have. There is a boundary up to how much "leeway" (sp?) we give the group to do things at their own time (washing hands, routine things, like snacks, etc). At the same time I also need to keep the flow of things. I find resistance in this particular child. He has charisma and attracts the rest into testing the environment and other children's boundaries. Any input? I love what you do...Clara

Unknown said...

It's great when they are involved. The more they do for themselves the better, I say! I'll bet you get some lovely comments from the children on each other's art when they help distribute it. :)

rosesmama said...

I'm loving the community building stories.

A study some years back showed that gains made in Headstart programs dis not persist in chidren who didn't also go to enriched elementary and high schools. I thought of this today while reading your post, and wondered if you have been at this long enough to have heard from parents whether the children continue to be community minded as they move on, or do they need the continual reinforcement they get at your class?

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

This is a great post to read, Tom.
I enjoy your perceptiveness about your group, and the way a group develops it's own personality. It does seem that around the 3 month point a group's identity begins to be more evident. This one sounds delightful.

I'm looking forward to reading more!

Mary said...

Amazing to read over a year later, they are all still like this!