Friday, November 18, 2016

The Old Bangeroo

I use a hand drum as my signal for transitions. I think it was last year, although it might have been the year before, that I started referring to it as "the old bangeroo."

For instance, when it's time to tidy up, I'll say, "I guess it's time for the old bangeroo." Several kids will usually object, joyfully, "It's a drum, Teacher Tom!"

"Well, I call it a bangeroo because I'm going to bang it for clean up time."

Sometimes I say I'm going to bang it so loud that their brains are going to come shooting out of their ears. Sometimes I say I'm going to bang it so loud that their heads are going to pop off of their shoulders, bounce off the ceiling and come down on someone else's body. Sometimes I drop the bangeroo bit and instead pretend it's the "clean up time banjo" or "trumpet" or some other instrument as the children correct me, "It's a drum, Teacher Tom!" Whatever the case, I typically make something of a show of it, one that can go on for several minutes.

I started doing this as just another goofy thing to do, something to make our day a little more fun, but over the years I've come to see that it actually provides a function. Young children are notoriously reluctant about transitions, and I don't blame them, I feel it every Monday morning, but this process, one in which I simply goof around for a few minutes, tends to draw the children together and allows them an opportunity to "prepare" themselves for the impending transition. In fact, as I go on, it's quite common for the children to start demanding that I bang the drum as I go through my schtick, especially as I stretch it out. And for those not drawn in by my show, those who need to finish playing, it lets them know they need to start wrapping things up in a way far more concrete than, say, the classic "five minute warning," which is meaningless to very young kids.

Often, by the time I actually bang the drum, kids are standing over their playthings, poised to go into action, anticipating the starting pistol, so to speak. And they usually make short work of it.

Yesterday, we were playing with our wooden trains. We have a big box of tracks and a big box of trains. I try to discourage the kids from just dumping out the boxes because all those small items quickly get scattered across the entire space, leaving it unusable as a building area, which results in kids mostly just walking on and kicking through the mess. That said, someone almost always has the idea of dumping the boxes. When it happened yesterday, I waited until the dumper had found what he wanted, then uprighted to box and began refilling it, just by way of keeping things tidy.

A girl looked at me with wrinkled eyebrows, "I didn't hear you bang the old bangeroo."

"I didn't."

"Then why are you putting things away?"

"Oh, I'm just getting some of these tracks back in the box so kids don't walk on them. When kids walk on them, they sometimes get broken or people trip and get hurt."


Seconds later, another child, "Teacher Tom, did you bang the old bangeroo?"


"But you're cleaning up." I repeated my explanation.

Moments later, another, "When did you bang the old bangeroo?"

"I didn't."

Then, without a word, the kids started packing things away, sorting the trains into the train box and the tracks into the track box. I said, "Hey guys, I haven't banged the old bangeroo. It's not clean-up time yet."

And a boy paused long enough to say to me, "Yes it is. You just forgot to bang the old bangeroo."

So I banged it, catching up with them for I am supposed to be their leader.

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