Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Bad Guy Boys Only!"

Last summer I wrote about the new playhouse Audrey and Titus' grandfather built for us, one of the cool features of which is that he designed it to allow the kids to create doors and windows pretty much anywhere they choose. Lately, the kids in our 4-5's class have chosen to seal themselves in, leaving only one small window through which they can come and go. Yesterday, a group of guys raced outside ahead of me, and as they barricaded themselves inside, they chanted, "Bad guy boys only! Bad guy boys only!"

I sat on a stump near the one and only window. I said, "It sounds like you're telling the girls they can't play in the playhouse."

There was a pause in the chanting to hear me out. When the chanting resumed, not all of them joined in.

After a bit I asked, "Are you really bad guys?"

In the pause, one of them answered, "No, we're pretending."

And I asked, "Are you pretending to be boys too?"

"No, we're really boys."

"If girls want to play can they pretend to be bad guy boys?"

Their bad guy leader answered fiercely, "No, they have to be real boys." The chanting resumed, but now he chanted alone. The barricade was nearly complete. Only one small window remained.

I said to the air, "We all agreed, you can't say you can't play."

I knew I need say no more when one of the boys replied, "Like Martin Luther King."

As one boy resumed the chant, the others began, one by one, to climb out the window. One of them, in passing, said to me, "I like playing with girls." Soon there was only a single boy in the playhouse, chanting alone, "Bad guy boys only! Bad guy boys only!" He was loud at first, but then petered out. When he resumed, he was chanting, "Bad guys only! Bad guys only!"

Some of his friends returned, even while he was the only one still chanting. Then, without speaking, they started dismantling two of the walls, the ones that faced the art table where a group of girls were engaged. As the walls came down, the chant changed and other voices joined it. They were saying, "Everybody come in! Everybody come in!"

When the girls ignored them, they began to shout, "Free ice cream! Free ice cream!" By now the ad hoc group formerly known as "bad guy boys" had grown far beyond its original core. As some of them began to take forays outside the playhouse to ask people for their ice cream orders, others began to use the wall planks to build ramps and walkways to make it "easier" for people to get inside.

It was the American civil rights story experienced and surpassed in the span of ten minutes.

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Nancy Schimmel said...

Funny and touching and illuminating all at once.

Donna said...

Awesome! Just awesome!!

Jeff said...

Wow that blew my mind and brought tears to my eyes.

Jeff said...


Been thinking about his all day. For adults this shows how important and vital "our consent" is for governments and big business to push their agendas. If everyone removed "their consent" from businesses and governments that behaved immorally or unethically then they could not exist. For example, our family does not support Nestle in any way at all. If everyone did this then they could not pursue their agenda of removing public water supply from towns, as Nestle believes that people are not entitled to public drinking water and should have to pay for it. Thanks again.

Kadesha's Diversity Training for Preschool Teachers said...

WOW!! I love it when teachable moments are not over looked. Especially the teachable moments when the grown-ups are able to learn from children at play. This is a prime example of such a moment. Thanks for taking the time to Blog about it.

Kadesha said...

WOW!! I love those teachable moments. Especially when grown-ups are taught a lesson from children at play. This is a prime example of such a moment.

Tammy said...

Teacher Tom! You are an inspiration! Your blogs make my heart sing! I am also a teacher and I am currently obsessed with your blogs!! Thank you!