“Understanding that is based on untruth is imaginary.” -Patanjali
Most of the issues that cause upset in our classroom are caused from lack of awareness of others or one’s own self or from misunderstanding. “Maturity” as defined by Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda), author of Education for Life, is the ability to understand realities outside one’s own. If I tell you what maturity I witnessed in my classroom today I’m not sure you would believe me. You would say, “Seven & eight year olds could not possibly come up with that depth of insight!” But, my friends, you would be wrong. Seven and eight year olds are peace lovers! And, on top of it, they have imaginations that can blow your lids off – literally!
PART 1:The picture above shows my students eating snack. Please note the cutting board with fruit on it. This was fruit from everyone’s snacks that they decided to share. I did not tell them to do this, nor did I suggest it. They not only understand, but are practicing the idea that, to quote songwriter Jack Johnson, “It’s always more fun to share with everyone.” But how did we arrive here this morning?
Well, as luck would have it, the boys asked to play Legos before circle time this morning. Right before circle time there was an upset. I asked everyone to “pause” and bring their legos over to the circle. We went through our conversation checklist: Body Scan, to check where our emotions are, Breathe & Smile, to raise the energy, Think, are my heart AND my brain turned on – am I able to be kind, not just fair?, Listen to someone else completely before I speak, Respectfully choose my tone of voice. So the conversation began without me running the show. The boys just talked to each other about what happened. There were a couple issues. They realized that some people were hogging pieces. Some boys had created “teams” that seemed exclusive. They decided that joining forces while playing would fix the problem of people getting excluded.
I asked them to come up with agreements about playing Legos and they came up with: Use soft voices, Collect only what you need to play with NOW, and Share with each other. I gave them a “solution star” which entitled them to 15 minutes of extra Lego time. They were so happy from the feeling of working things out together that when snack time rolled around, one boy ran around the room asking who liked mangoes. He then ran to the kitchen and cut it up and brought it back to share with everyone – more followed this inspiration with bananas and apples and a carrot.
Later in the day another miracle of awareness happened in front of my eyes. One boy got upset during a group lesson and instead of doing his usual “run to the closet and shut out the world” told the perpetrator, “I’m really tired because I feel like you are always mean to me.” The other boy, who would normally loudly deny all wrong doing surprised me by saying, “Why do you feel like that?” The first boy said that he didn’t like that he yelled everything at him. The 2nd boy then actually said,”Oh my God, I totally wasn’t aware that my voice sounded like that. I’m really sorry, I’ll try to change.”
Oh, it gets better…
At this point, I paused the lesson and everyone just sat and listened to them talk it out. The first boy then said, remembering the visual Narani had used yesterday to describe how we wear pathways in the brain by doing things over and over, “Well, it’s going to take me a while to forgive you because you mowed a path in my brain that says you are always mean. If you are nice to me the grass will grow back.”
PART 2: I was wondering what boys who grow up in Buddhist monasteries play. Fighting, weapons, good vs. evil, etc. is a big part of my boys’ imaginary world. Of course, from time to time, the game changes, but lately, they have been playing a new sword fighting game. I told them they could play, but only in slow motion so that no one gets ‘wacked for real.’ Their world is incredible. They have imagined incredible scenes and powers and weaknesses. They can play together in a big dance of cooperative war. Some people I have talked to do not allow weapon play at school. To outsiders it may seem rough, but really what they are doing is practicing negotiating, rule-making, and cooperating.
I was speaking to the Preschool teacher later on in the day, telling her about this story and she remarked how one of her preschoolers was playing with toy soldiers. When the soldiers got hurt he would put them on the circular landing pad. The teacher asked what he was doing and he said that he was putting them in the ‘healing circle.”
We both agreed today was a really special day.