Thursday, January 31, 2019

"Let's Play Cage Ball"

"Let's play ball." He was kicking the half deflated yoga ball that has turned up on our playground and was inviting me to join him.

Moments before, a classmate had asked me to play a game with him and was still standing at my knee. I answered, "I don't want to play right now, but I know someone who does," indicating the boy standing beside me.

"Why don't you want to play?"

"Because I have work to do."

"What work?"

"Standing here watching you two play ball."

They both gave me looks of bafflement, then agreed to play ball together.

It was a busy part of the playground, so I suggested they would have more room if they moved farther up the hill, an idea they found worthy. When they got about halfway to their destination taking turns kicking the ball, one of them had the idea of rolling it into our playground dog crate, squeezing himself in beside it. The boy and the ball took up most of the space. He said, "I have an idea. Let's play cage ball."

His friend needed no further explanation as he wedged himself into the only space left. The cage was full. They had attracted the attention of a couple other kids who wanted to play cage ball too. A girl tried to make room in the cage for herself, pushing and wiggling. Inevitably, one of the boys said, "Hey, you're hurting me!"

She responded instantly, giving up her attempt. She saw a face that was about to cry and quickly said, "I'm sorry." There was a moment during which the offended boy seemed to consider whether or not to accept the apology before he said, "That's okay, it didn't hurt."

Having witnessed this, the handful of children left on the outside decided that their role in the cage ball game was to climb atop the crate and, alternatively, play the sides and roof like a bongo drum. It was a game enjoyed by all for quite some time. I was completely forgotten, left to do my job of standing there watching them play.

This is why we come to school, to practice the skills and develop the habits of playing with the other people, creating and taking part in a community of equals. This is the fundamental trait of a good citizen in a democratic society: working well with others, getting along with others, finding ways to contribute that serve both the individual and the wider society. This is the reason we value the development of social-emotional skills in young children, because they are the skills of community. It's why we come to school. The rest can come later, as needed, but this is what makes life worthy of its name: playing cage ball with the other people.

I've 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: