Thursday, November 29, 2012

All The Hallmarks Of Mastery

It's true that our classroom can get a little rowdy at times. It's exciting to be with your friends and to be someplace where you get to set the agenda. It's a fine line we walk as teachers, trying to help the children figure out where their freedom to swing their fist ends and where the chins of others begins. We're not here to help them avoid mistakes, and each time we do we stunt their learning a bit, but we can help them understand the consequences of those mistakes and how to make things right again. Being in the world with other people is why we're here, of course, but it's a very complex thing, one that takes a lifetime to master, if that's even possible. 

In fact, the older I get, the more I come to understand that relationships are the journey philosophers talk about, complete with long trudges, smooth downhill glides, and steep, rocky climbs. And strive as we might, no one ever gets good enough at being with the other people that we can avoid the work and pain and tears. That's why it's important to really enjoy it when your flywheel is singing, the wind's in your hair, and you get to laugh and laugh while your body is pressed up against someone you love.

These guys aren't the first to empty our stuffed animal basket in order to wear it on their heads, but I'm pretty sure it's the first time that three of them have squeezed in there together and attempted to walk around the room. They were swinging their proverbial fists as they staggered around our small space, trying to figure out how to get three sets of legs going in one direction. It's the kind of endeavor, apparently, that requires wild giggling and the occasional shriek. Naturally, there was bumping against furniture and the process involved the very complex operation of falling down and getting back up. 

I hovered around them, not too close. As they entered certain parts of the room parent-teachers would issue the universal reminder to "be careful," but I'm pretty sure if the guys heard them, it was only at a subliminal level. Happily, no one got hurt, or angry, or frustrated before someone decided they'd had enough and the rowdy, sweaty, hilarious game was over. For them it had been an all-around good time.

I worry sometimes that the rowdy play will consume the classroom; that all that proverbial fist swinging is at least threatening the chins of children who are more cautious and careful; who are working on different aspects of their relationships with the other people. As I shadowed their game I tried to keep a look out for evidence they were disturbing or intimidating anyone. It's true that most of the other kids left a sort of space bubble around them as they moved around the room, but just as many went right up to them, laughing back through the mesh, some even tried to climb up in there with them.

And, in fact, over on the blue rug, often within a few feet of this staggering, giggling, clot of boys, an earnest lecture was taking place, as one child taught another everything he knows about our map of the United States.

This time, at least, the flywheel was spinning joyfully and the rowdy relationship game showed all the hallmarks of mastery.

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Unknown said...

That was wonderful. Thank you.

Nursery Staff said...

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