There are many different things that inspire my blog posts. Yesterday, it was a conversation between two students that later had me uttering the words to my teaching partner, Paula, “I need to blog about this!”
We were outside in the forest when a child came up to me. She wasn’t crying, but she did have a frown on her face and she told me that she was “upset.” She explained that she was playing in the forest when a child came up and hit her. Hmmm … this sounds strange. Thinking about how Paula usually responds I asked, “What happened first?” She was insistent that nothing did, and the child just hit her. I wanted to find out more, so I called over the other child. I explained to him what this student told me, and he said, “But she was being rude. I didn’t like it!”
I then had a choice to make. After finding out a little more about the rudeness, I explained to this little boy that, “It wasn’t okay for her to be rude to you, but hitting is an extreme reaction. What could you have done instead?” He had a few ideas, so I suggested that he think about this for the next time. Then I said to him, “You need to figure out a way to make things better with her.” He said, “Like, ‘Say sorry.'” I explained, “This might work, or it might not be enough. I’m not sure. You should go and talk to her.” She was standing behind me, so I moved away slightly, but still within hearing distance. This is when something incredible happened.
I heard the two of them talking. The little girl actually apologized to him for “being rude,” and he apologized to her for “hitting.” They stood there and had a good three-to-five minute conversation around feelings, and then chose to go off and play together. They never play together. I didn’t have to say another word to the two of them, and they never came back to me to check in or see if the apology was “good enough.” These two kindergarteners worked out a solution that worked for the two of them. And just like that, I realized how much these kids have grown.
Our students might be some of the youngest children in our school. They might still be learning how to read more challenging words, write longer sentences, and explore more difficult math problems, but they’ve figured out something terrific that will last them well beyond kindergarten: the ability to solve problems. On their own. Without the support of a teacher. Minus a script, a trip to the office, or hours of discussion. Sometimes we think that kids are too little to take on this kind of problem solving. I understand. I believed this at one point as well. But in the past three years, thanks to Paula, I’ve learned that even our youngest learners are far more capable than we may have ever imagined. A lot rests on us — as the adults — to show our kids that we believe in them and then give them the opportunity to show us just what they can do.
In the last few days of school, educators and parents are sure to be presented with problems. Some may even be ones that haven’t surfaced all year, but are now, thanks to the increased stress and change in routines that are true in these final days of June. So when a child approaches you, what will you say? What will you do? What message might your seemingly small actions give to kids? Never before have I loved a hit quite so much!