Monday, November 5, 2012

Play?

The first day back after our hurricane break I was losing my mind. The careful rhythm I'd found myself in the weeks before had somehow disappeared along with the 70 degree weather and I could barely remember what came next. Finally at the end of the day I lost it. Deciding that we'd play a game for math instead of trying to work on our individual math tasks I pulled out Hi Ho Cheerios. (For my kiddos this game is brilliant- as far as math goes they have to count a set amount of fruit on the spinner, then they have to select the same amount of fruit. We're hitting counting, recognizing numerals, AND selecting the same amount- all of which are tough skills to do. Not to mention that we're reinforcing turn taking.)

One of our friends had earned his break time and was happily playing with his play dough. Typically he doesn't really pay attention to what the other children in the class are doing and doesn't usually tolerate waiting his turn. Plus, he already can count, select, and recognize numbers so the game wasn't going to hit any of his math skills. I planned on getting the game started then going back to work on math with him when his break-time was over.

As I set the kids up and began explaining how we would play my friend came up to us. He looked at my aid and said "play".

There was silence. The aid and I looked at each other in shock. He used spontaneous language to ask to play with other kids? Spontaneous language? Asking to participate in a game with other students? Even the other kids were slightly stunned.

Of course! We said, and got him situated. Taking turns wasn't easy for him, but he certainly enjoyed the game and he let us coach him through the turn taking process. He followed the rules, selected the right amount of fruit and put it on his tree.

For a day when I was losing my mind, fighting back frustration at everything I was doing wrong as a teacher- desperately trying to remember what was coming next- my little friend's actions immediately made it all better.

All the stress I was putting on myself vanished as I watched my friend ask to play. I can feel like the earth is falling apart, yet there are successes. Small successes. Baby steps. I can't forget to watch the kids and celebrate their progress. It's not about perfect lessons- it's about the progress the kiddos are making.

A think tank focused on creative solutions for future problem solvers -tree