“Joy will come to anyone whose heart has learned to fly!” -Swami Kriyananda
WOW! Today was amazing… let me just tell you all about it while it’s still fresh…
In the morning, before the boys arrived, I put a 40 large piece Solar System puzzle on the floor. The first two boys arrived and, after their morning jobs, they began “puzzling” over the puzzle. Then another boy arrived, and another… the puzzle began taking shape. The anxiety was building… who would find the next piece?… where would it go?.. Voices grew in intensity… The wall of “I,me, my, mine” was up. I watched as the boys who weren’t as quick at recognizing where the pieces go slowly raised their white flags, energy sinking… and then… Frustration.
I rang the bell for circle time.
We were all seated, but one boy remained in his desk with his arms folded and head hung.
“Uh oh, I said,” to the other boys. “We’re missing someone.”
“I only got to put in one piece, everyone grabbed!”
All but one agreed that they had heard him asking if he could find a piece, but everyone said they thought he wasn’t talking to them personally. The one other boy said he did not hear him or anyone else at all. We discussed this briefly – it was agreed that if we hear a cry for help and everyone says, “Well, they weren’t talking to me,” then probably the person won’t get helped.
Later in the morning, after they left the classroom, I broke apiece the puzzle and left it in a pile and placed atop it one of the statues we had built with the Buddhist monks. (Read here, for background information.) Later in the day, when we got back to the classroom, they found it destroyed and demanded an explanation, but were not upset. Two of the boys saw the statue and remembered how the monks had broken our statues. They started to get the picture that things hadn’t gone well in the morning and I was asking them to do it again, but this time to make sure everyone was included.
One boy had the idea to “multiply” out all the pieces to everyone. Another student corrected him, “Do you mean divide?” “Oh, yeah, that thing we’re doing in math.” And they shared out the pieces and started again. This is the video.
At the very end, one boy was upset because another child was telling him where to put his pieces. Because everyone was calm, everyone stopped and listened to him as opposed to the morning when no one was listening. The boys said afterwards that they felt better playing, they could not name the feelings except to say it was calmer and people were listening to each other. “This calls for a celebration!” I said. I made them peppermint tea and when I said they could have free drawing time to celebrate being good friends. Right after the video ended, they launched enthusiastically into drawing, they chose to draw a giant picture together and it was not my idea.
Maybe when they’re done, we’ll mount it on card board and cut it up into a giant puzzle.
Here is the picture of the drawing…
“What is it a picture of?” you ask… well, wouldn’t you know, it’s a picture of bombs, soldiers, guns, and tanks in full-on combat… What else?… Don’t forget these are 7 and 8 year old, American boys. When the tea was done, I let them watch a short sweet video of soldiers returning home to their families and giving big hugs to their kids. I didn’t show it to make a statement about war or think about the reality of war, not at all! Their minds are innocent and their play is pretend. What’s more important, even in “war play,” is interpersonal relationships. What is the quality of how we treat each other during play? How do we negotiate rules? I showed the video to open up another element to their play and also to arise in them the feeling that soldiers are human. “Did you know that the soldiers can be dads and moms too?”…because, as you know, at the Living Wisdom School, we always love to expand, expand, expand…