Wednesday, October 02, 2013

In Practice

A few more words regarding yesterday's post . . .

In writing about how sharing works at our school, I used the sentence, "When you're done with it, may I have a turn?" As a reader made me realize, this is wrong because it's a polite ideal invented be me, a grown-up, never actually said in practice, thrown into a blog post with a tin inner ear. In practice, we're more likely to make a declaration like, "When you're done, it's my turn," or more commonly, "I'm next!" (And I've now edited that post to reflect this.) 

In all honesty, and upon reflection, I must confess that that post only reflects or default policy. In practice things are a bit more fluid. Since the children at Woodland Park make all their own rules, the default policy may or may not be the method in use at any given time. Sometimes the kids elect to try out different formalized sharing systems.

Once we all agreed that you had to count to 20 before you could take possession of a toy that someone had put down. This was a rule driven by our older kids, who had, after much discussion, coalesced around what they thought was a better idea. In practice, however, after trying the onerous counting method a handful of times, everyone sort of shrugged and moved on, resorting back to the way things were.

For a time our agreement was that if both people thought they had their hands on it "first," then they had to "share" it, which the kids defined as "both people have to use it." For several weeks thereafter you would see children having a grand time walking around the place enjoying the act of jointly carrying a doll or a car or a book. In fact, this often lead to more children joining the came of carrying something together. But, of course, it wasn't a sustainable solution and we soon fell back on our old ways.

One year, if you wanted a turn on the swings we agreed you had to ask (with these precise words) "Would you please let me have a turn?" three times, whereupon the person was compelled "by law" to give up said swing. If you failed, however, to put the words in exactly that order three times in a row, for instance putting the word "please" at either end of the sentence, you had to start the request process all over again. The experiment petered out after only a few weeks, but for a time it worked rather well, perhaps more as a game than anything else.

Most often, however, sharing or turn-taking is governed by the children in a more ad hoc way, such as the example I included in the photo captions yesterday, in which the girls worked out a method for trading places after each count of 20. Likewise, we keep a couple of kitchen timers around the school, which the children often choose to use to manage turns. Often, we chose to queue up, which is another method of sharing. As a child, my friends and I (often reluctantly) accepted the "dibs" or "shot gun" rule: whoever said it first, was first. Then it was up to who said "Next!" first and so on. In practice, we often wind up relying on methods akin to this.

Whatever the case, we try to avoid imposing methods on the kids (although in practice, when emotions are running high, adults find themselves strongly suggesting case specific systems). This is the kids' community and as logical as our own systems may be, a big part of the reason we're in preschool is to learn about working with others and the only way to do that is to experiment. So while we have our default policy, the kids are always free, if they can agree, to propose and practice their own ideas of what is fair.

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Anonymous said...

We use "can I use it when you are through?" And it seems to work well and be practical enough to actually say

Teacher Tom said...

I'd actually prefer not phrasing it as a question. The person using a commonly owned object or space is only in charge of it insofar as they are using it. The question gives undue power or control to the person using the object. I prefer that we simply state it as a fact: "I'm next."