“The poop is stuck!” An unexpected start to learning.

Little did I realize yesterday that some poop would inspire a post. Let me explain! It was a few minutes before my teaching partner, Paula, was about to leave for her lunch break when a child asked her to help flush the toilet. A piece of poop would not go down. Paula tried, but with no success. She told me about the problem, and I suggested that she write a note to our fabulous caretaker, Mr. Gomes, to ask for some help. She chuckled and quickly forgot my suggestion.

About 10 minutes later, one of our JK students came to me with a serious problem. He tried to flush the toilet, but the “poop is stuck!” We definitely need a note now. I suggested that we ask another child for some note writing help, and the two of them can do it together. While of course our note writer needed to see the poop before writing the note, she took great pride in writing a serious note for some emergency help.

Yes everyone, sometimes as I’m speaking, I wonder, am I really saying this? Am I really about to document this? Apparently the answer is the affirmative for both.

What really caught me about this experience and had me reflecting later with Paula is that nobody laughed. In fact, I was probably the closest to giggling. We’re talking poop, toilets, and four-year-olds, and there was not one guffaw. Why?

  • Could it be the seriousness of how we approached the problem?
  • Could it be because the children felt as though they were making a difference with their note?
  • Could it be because Mr. Gomes used this experience as a teachable moment for all of us?
  • Could it be because there’s been enough toilet talk throughout the year that children are actually taking the bathroom seriously now?

I couldn’t help but think back to a staff meeting many, many years ago, and a few schools ago. The new Health Curriculum was coming out at the time (it’s changed a few times since then), and we were all asked to think about how we could integrate elements of it into our classrooms. I was teaching kindergarten, and the curriculum document was not for us. My principal though, pushed back a bit at our team, and had us think about small things that we could do during play to maybe bridge the gap between K to 1. What about including anatomically correct dolls in our dramatic play centre? We already had a potty in this space to help with modelling toilet training (using dolls) for a few of our kids. Would this be the logical next step?

At the time I wondered, but now I’m thinking that there might have been something behind what this principal suggested back then.

I’m not saying that we should all go out and buy new dolls for dramatic play, but I watch now as our kids make clothing for a variety of dolls that they brought from home. There’s nothing strange about having a naked doll or two on our floor, just like there’s nothing strange about asking for help flushing a big piece of poop down the toilet.

As educators and parents speak about kids feeling comfortable about their bodies and their bodily functions, could notes like the one from yesterday actually help with that? It doesn’t get more real world than learning to use a plunger. What’s so embarrassing about this? How do we help support our students — of any age — in not being embarrassed? Little did I know that documenting this toilet trouble from yesterday would be one of the highlights of my day. Learning really can happen anywhere … even thanks to poop and a potty.


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