Busy Bees: The Rhythm of a Community
Gregg: “How many?”
Child: “Thirty-two pieces.”
Gregg: “That…is so much wood.”
Child: “Can I split more?”
Gregg: “That’s enough for now, head off to play.”
The wood is for soup day and gets neatly stacked under our low woodshed made from rotting stumps and cedar planks. The process of hauling cutting and chopping wood is unnecessary. All of our wood needs can be met by grabbing hunks from the woodshed up by the school. The task goes beyond busy work. It goes beyond my desire for the children to find satisfaction moving and doing purposeful work. In the whole scheme of the Kindergarten, I want part of their rhythm to be: “We do this because it’s what people do; it’s what a community does together.”
In class, the whole purpose of the work is for the greater good. I seldom lay praise on a particular child. My statement will be more along the lines of, “I sure am glad we have this wood for soup day,” or, “All these potatoes are from our garden.” It is my desire for the children’s rhythm to lead towards group collaboration. One of my past articles spoke of self-initiated compliance, which ultimately comes down to, “If I comply, it’s good for the whole.” For the program to work effectively, the class must, as a community, buy into this concept. If it doesn’t, then chaos, headaches, yelling, and tears reign. My expectation is not that they are verbally taught the concept of teamwork or helping the other through words, instead that they learn through action and example. Some of them are not ready for this understanding, and so don’t help as readily. Others, like the older children, I expect to help, because they are just beginning to understand. They are examples for the younger children. The Kindergarten program relies some on the way in which these older children “buy” into my need for them to help and be good role models.
When we clean up after snack, the helpers clean everybody’s places. Everybody else cleans up the toys. It is this mass movement that simultaneously takes care of two tasks at once. There is no instruction; my and Julie’s lead are the only examples. Through good habits and the help of the older children role modeling, we have a productive cleanup session. At the end of the flurry of activity, we crisscross applesauce on the rug. I may or may not comment on the work done, and no one looks for praise, because it is what we do.
This modeling with compliance given little instruction is the ideal. I tried something new this winter to test this. Our rhythm had been thrown a bit with the cold weather and instead of drawing first thing when we came in, we played for ten minutes prior. I then sat down at my drawing spot, and, never having tried it before, sang the rainbow song (used to initiate painting). Immediately the older children came and within a minute all children were around the table busily drawing. A true community should function like this. We comply not necessarily because of writ laws or extensive instruction, but because we have established what works best and all involved feel safe and comfortable and loved.
Gregg: “We sure could use some more wood.”
Child: “I saw a dead branch.”
Gregg: “It’s huge. It must weigh as much as ten Louisas” (we often use Sprouts for size references.)
Child: “I can get it. Easy!”