Days and Preschool Days, Too:
A treasury of anecdotes culled from my work
and play as a preschool worker and an elementary school after- school
the play yard yesterday, two girls approached me asking for toy
horsies. To oblige them I pulled a large plastic crate down from our
white wooden fence. This crate stays loosely bolted out of children's
reach so that they wouldn't spill everything at once onto the sand.
I'd found two plastic horses there the day before. Searching
through a mass of plastic cars, trucks, and boats, I finally came upon
one brown horse. The larger, black horse was nowhere to be seen.
"Girls, there's only one here," I said.
"You'll have to either play together or take turns." The girls wanted
to take turns, but one of them insisted on going first. A bit surprisingly,
the other girl gracefully agreed.
That situation settled, I turned around
to leave, only to find a third girl sitting right there in the sand
playing withyou guessed itthe other horse.
"I want the black horse!" said the child
clutching the brown, smaller horse.
"I got this horse out!" said the girl
with the black horse.
"I want the black one!" said the third,
previously patient, horseless girl.
The seated girl was busy burying the
black horse in a small mountain of sand. She said it was a castle.
"We have three girls and two horses,"
I said after a moment of frantic thought. "The only choices we have
are to play together or else to take turns."
"No!" said all the girls.
"Well, that's the only thing we can do,
so we're going to do it," I replied, resigned to the necessity of becoming
executive, legislature, and judiciary all in one. "So, Marissa, you
play with the black horse, and Sandra, you play with the brown horse,
for a little while. Then, when I ask you to, Marissa, give your horse
to Sandra, and Sandra, you give yours to Bea."
Now I had to enforce this arrangement.
Sandra and Bea were all right when I gave Marissa's horse to Bea, but,
as one might expect, Maissa, who felt entitled to full-time use of the
black horse, simply collapsed into wails and tears.
Again I thought frantically. "Let's pretend
the black horse is still buried in the sand," I suggested. Marissa cried
even louder. "Marissa," I said, grasping
imaginative straws, "Let's pretend your horse went off with the King,
to another country. We can build your castle bigger, so it's ready and
makes the horse happy when the horse comes back!"
Marissa liked that idea. She stopped
crying and was soon smiling, adding sand to her mound and placing sticks
upright as turrets and flagpoles. She was practically cooing in contentment.
"All right," I said. "Now it's time to
change again. Sandra, you give your horse to Bea. Bea, give your horse
to Marissa." Sandra immediately went into an inconsolable, grief-stricken
"I want my mommy!" she cried, the last
resort of every bereft child. I knew that Sandra is very attached to
horses. She brings a stuffed pony or unicorn to school almost every
day. For her, a horse seems more than a horse: it seems to provide the
security to allow her to separate each morning from mom.
I sat the little girl on my lap, trying
to comfort her but not knowing what else to do or say. "Sandra," I improvised,
hoping that through her tears she could somehow absorb my words, "This
is what we have to do when there are 3 girls and only 2 horses! Everybody
has to spend a little time without a horse. What you are doing now is
called waiting. We all have to do it sometimes. I understand how you
feel. Waiting is hard."
I realized it was almost time to trade
again soon! If Sandra can learn to experience a connection between waiting
and getting, she'll realize that the wait is temporary, I t hought.
Next time, thenor some next timeit'll be a little easier.
A horse back in Sandra's hands quickly
ended her tears. I stepped back and observed the girls. Bea was playing
with Marissa now, sharing the brown horse. Glancing at my watch, I saw
it was time for my break. It seemed safe to leave the girls.
When I returned in 15 minutes, the girls
were all playing together with the horses. Another teacher told me that
for awhile several other children had joined them, too, in complete
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