Tuesday, November 29, 2016

More Hard, Messy, Emotional Work

Last week, I illustrated a post about the hard, messy, emotional work that the children in our school are doing every day using a story about a girl who wanted to join a game in progress, but who was unwilling to agree to actually play the game already in progress, and was therefore excluded. Yesterday, a group of younger kids, 3-year-olds, found themselves in a similar situation.

Two boys were playing in the top of our loft. I have no idea what they were playing, but each of them was holding one of our classroom baoding balls, which I've written about before. What I haven't shared, and what I've only discovered within the last couple of months is that we, in fact, have three of these balls, an extra one having appeared from who knows where. It's a fact that may have eluded me for weeks, but one of which the children have long been aware seeing that these shiny, metal balls with the gentle chimes inside are valued loose parts.

A third boy, a regular playmate, began to ascend the stairs into the loft when the boys with the balls said, "You can't come up here unless you have a ball," causing their friend to break down in tears. He threw himself into his mother's lap to bawl. The boys in the loft appeared confused. I said, "He's crying because you told him he couldn't come into the loft."

One of the boys replied matter-of-factly, "He can come in the loft. He just has to have a ball," showing me his silver ball. His companion's attention, however, was fully on his crying friend.

I answered loudly enough that the upset boy could hear me, "Oh, so if he has one of those balls, he can come up?"


"Well, there's another ball right over there," I answered, still loudly enough for all to hear, pointing. I waited a few seconds, then took it upon myself to retrieve the third silver ball and put it on a table near the crying boy, who ignored it.

I had done what I could, I felt, so backed off, while still keeping an eye on things. As I watched, the boy who had shown the most concern descended the loft, not once taking his eyes off his crying friend. He stood on the floor for a moment, holding his ball. I thought I saw his throat spasm as if fighting down tears of his own. The other boy descended the stairs as well and they stood there together for a moment. They might have spoken, although I didn't see it, then crossed the room to where we generally keep the box for those balls, put the balls away, and closed the lid.

The boy finished his cry, then all three boys went about their day

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