Friday, June 30, 2017

Courage To Take The Leap

"Institutional memory" has kept our "diving board" game alive for the past three or so years. I wrote a couple posts about it back in 2014 when it first emerged (here and here), but the essential idea is that the kids put a long plank of wood on the top of our three-step flight of stairs and anchor one end under the gate, making a diving board off which they take turns jumping.

The only change since then is that we've realized that the upward pressure it was putting on the gate threatened the integrity of the hinges and latches so we've added an adult outside the gate to stand on the short end, serving as dead weight. Usually, that adult is me, which puts me just over the gate in a prime position to over hear their conversations and observe their intimate interactions as they jostle, bicker, and otherwise figure out how they are going to manage their game.

One of the biggest challenges is that while the older children usually get the inherent fairness of waiting in line and taking turns, the younger ones typically do not. There's a lot of, "Hey, you cut!" that falls on uncomprehending ears. Sometimes the older children compel the younger ones into line through a combination of force and adult-like firmness, but most of the time they either shrug and let them have their way because "they're little," or, more often, one of the older kids will spontaneously take on the role of mentor, guiding the younger ones by their shoulders or elbows.

This week, they took it a step farther as the big kids began escorting their younger charges all the way to the end of the diving board, holding their hands as they jumped, sometimes even "catching" them. Despite their best intentions, however, the "help" pretty much universally resulted in the younger children falling as they hit the ground, especially when the big kids tried to catch them. Often both children fell. The ground is not particularly hard and the height from which they were jumping not particularly high, but it was the sort of thing from which one would typically expect crying from the two-year-olds. Yet, despite some falls that appeared to be quite impactful, not a single tear was shed, and every one of the kids returned to try it again and again.

As I watched these young children take their hard falls, assisted by the older children who were, in reality, only making those falls more inevitable, I saw them again and again refuse to scoot out to the end of the diving board until one of the older children took their hand. I expected that eventually the younger kids would begin to refuse those proffered hands, opting for full control of their own bodies in the name of personal safety, but it never happened.

As the younger children kept coming back for more, they showed no fear of falling, no fear of pain, no fear of failure, all of which they knew was built into this game. Yet over and over they insisted upon the hand of an older child before they would even stand on the end of the diving board: it gave them the courage, I guess, to take the leap, to keep going, which is more often than not the main reason why any of us need one another.

(I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!)

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share

No comments: