Thursday, November 30, 2023

Four Angry Ship Builders

Charlotte said, "I'm going to build a ship," and got to work arranging the blocks.

Ships have always been a popular way for the kids to use our large wooden blocks. It's a simple build which normally involves arranging the blocks into a deck, flat on the floor. Each time Charlotte would place a block, however, one of her classmates would step on it, which frustrated her. "Hey, I'm building a ship!"

There was a lot of action in the block area and it got so she was chasing someone off her ship every few seconds, to which she responded by upping the intensity of her objections.

It didn't seem like anyone was intentionally provoking Charlotte. The situation was more a function of attempting to work on a solo project in a crowded, active area. After having been reprimanded several times by Charlotte, Henry paused for a moment to survey this corner of the rug, and in doing so he seemed to suddenly see the world from Charlotte's perspective. "I'm going to help build the ship." And with that he began arranging blocks.

Without directly acknowledging Henry, Charlotte began to chase the other kids off, still angrily, "Hey, we're building a ship!"

And Henry took on the tone as well, "Hey, we're building a ship!" Now we had two intense ship builders. 

Soon Audrey joined them, pushing large blocks into place. She said nothing, but wore a fierce, tight-jawed expression as she worked.

"Hey, we're building a ship!" "Hey, that's our ship!"

As the three angry builders made their herky jerky progress, Lilyanna, who had been dancing about the block area to the beat of some internal rhythm, and therefore largely oblivious to the builders, had as a consequence been chased off the burgeoning ship more times than I could count. As she turned a sort of pirouette on the ship deck, the builders said once more, loudly, "Hey, we're building a ship!"

Lilyanna was offended, putting her hands on her hips defiantly, commanding, "Stop!" Saying "stop" forcefully is a technique we teach the children for when someone is hurting them, frightening them, or taking their things. Some kids, however, find it so powerful that they try it out in any circumstance in which they find themselves at odds with others.

This lead to a silent stand-off, with the three builders standing face-to-face with Lilyanna, angry faces all around. Finally, Charlotte said, as if castigating the world, "This is our ship! Mine, Henry's, Audrey's and Lilyanna's!"

Then the four angry ship builders got back to work.


"Teacher Tom, our caped hero of all things righteous in the early childhood world, inspires us to be heroic in our own work with young children, and reminds us that it is the children who are the heroes of the story as they embark on adventures of discovery, wonder, democracy, and play." ~Rusty Keeler
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