Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How The World Could Work

The scene appeared right before me, fully formed.

D, a four-year-old boy, and C, a four-year-old girl, were there at my knees struggling over a metal coffee pot that lives on our playground. There were no words being spoken, just tugging and fierce expressions.

When these children were two-year-olds, I would have taken hold of the coffee pot myself, holding it in place, not allowing either one to seize control of it from the other, but I've been teaching these kids for awhile. Instead, I took hold of it symbolically by placing two fingers on it. Both retained their hold on the pot, but were no longer pulling.

These stunning pieces by artist Ellen Forney can be found at the new Capitol Hill light rail station in Seattle

I said, "You both want that pot."

"I had it first."

"I need it."

They were looking at one another has they made their cases, although they were responding to me. I waited for several seconds and when it became apparent that neither of them had anything more to say, I echoed the words I had heard: "D said he had it first and C said she needed it."

"I'm using it."

"I want to use it."

"But I was using it first."

"I want to use it to make coffee."

My fingers were no longer on the coffee pot. There was some gentle tugging with each turn in the argument, more by way of being persuasive, I thought, than any real effort to wrest control of it.

D then said, firmly, "I had it first."

C mirrored his firmness, "But I need it."

A, a classmate, had been watching from the start. She stepped in authoritatively, "C, I think you should give it to him because he had it first. Then you can use it later."

The two stood holding the coffee pot between them for a moment before C said, "Oh, okay." She released her grip and walked to the playhouse. D took the pot to the garden where he dipped it into a bucket of water, filling it, then used it to water the peas we had recently planted. He then took it to the playhouse and gave it to C.

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Barbara Zaborowski said...

"Can I have it when you're done?" is our magical version of that. It works wonders. Sometimes whoever had it first hands it over right away! They were really done but hanging on because the other child had tried to wrest it away rather than asking for it.

Celi said...

I'm just not sure I'm comfortable about A's intervention. It sounds like it worked this time but when a third kid gets involved in a conflict uninvited, it can cause more problems than it solves in my experience.

Teacher Tom said...

Celi, I have found just the opposite to be true. I have always encouraged third parties to become involved and make suggestions. I cannot recall a time when it went badly. Sure, sometimes the other kids reject their ideas, but I've certainly never seen it inflame the situation. More typically it calms things as it did here. In school, we treat all conflicts as community conflicts.