Last September I wrote a post called "Scaffolding" about the need for rules and my interpretation/understanding of what rules are and how they should be used to support children rather than control children.
Yesterday I was reading about lining-up... and it got me reflecting again... as there was someone who wrote that they never line up - "that why should children line up when adults never do?"
Which of course made me react... because when I lived in the UK I used to line up a lot (and this was someone from the UK that made the comment) and even here in Sweden we line up... and when I was in USA last year people were lining up... and when I lived in Australia we lined up... buying food, getting on the bus... etc
So I felt that this was not a good argument to use for children not lining up...
I do remember the school bus in UK where there were about 200 teenagers all trying to get on the bus at the same time... no lining up... I also remember how incredibly stressful taking the bus HOME was all 200 children trying to get on the bus at the same time (I was grateful for being tall... it meant my head was above the crowd and I could both breathe and SEE what was happening - my shorter friends would disappear... and of course school bags got trapped behind someone else and suddenly you had one foot on the bus but couldn't get on because your bag was trapped behind someone else which made the whole confusion worse and everyone started pushing harder and squeezing more in desparation to get on the bus...) - getting there from all our different locations was much easier...
The children I work with now line up... not much and not for long, but just so that transitions work.
When we come inside again the children sit and wait by the documentation wall (and digital frame) that they can look at and reflect upon and they talk about what they have been doing... and at the moment they play with their feet a great deal. When everyone is ready we line up and walk to the washroom to wash hands before lunch... BEFORE we did not line up at all... BEFORE the children were free to go and wash their hands when they were ready... BEFORE there were tears every day as they were all trying to come first and it was the same three big loud children that pushed the others out of the way that could achieve this. There was no equality, there was little respect and there was little consideration. AND no matter how we talked about WITH the children and they suggested ideas of what we could do... they could not actually perform their own suggestions... they were not practiced enough.
I understand that there is a NEED to come first. It is important, and just about every group of 3-5 year olds go through this incredible need to be first... This could be their need to feel the best at something, to feel good. THEN it is even more important that we can allow EVERYONE to feel good if they want to... and NOT just the ones that are big enough, strong enough and loud enough to be first.
Yesterday (before reading any of this about lining up) we had ANOTHER chat about lining up. Reminding the children about how it used to be, and Ellen and I even role-played how they used to pull, shove and push each other and scream at each other and then cry so that they could be first... and then asked the children how we should resolve the problem... "take it in turns to be leader" was their answer.
So we asked them if they are happy with this taking of turns at being leader and the 5-10 minutes of each day (6:30-18:00) that we line up during our big transitions. They said yes it was better now.
And yes there are days that some children can not line up "properly" and that does not mean lining up perfectly but that they are pushing and shoving and being inconsiderate... and I think this is all a part of a process for these 3-5 year olds... they are learning about being me/we relationship.
The children seriously challenged me a few weeks ago after almost 3 weeks with a series of substitute teachers coming in and out (and some of the children being apparently very rude too - calling them names etc) and they raised the question that I was telling them what to do all the time... so we sat down and talked about it...
Do you want me to help when someone hits you... do you expect me to stay stop?
Do you want me to help you stay safe when we go on excursions?
all my questions the children said yes...
Then I asked when I tell you something have you noticed that what I am doing is trying to create an environment that allows you to play safely, that in fact I am not deciding over you, but that I am listening to what YOU all want and trying to help create that - that in fact I am the voice of the group?
The children listened, they accepted and they agreed... a little later, one of the children challenged me one more time by deliberately breaking the rule to provoke me... so I looked at her and said calmly... I see you feel the need to challenge me as the adult again... but remember I am not saying these things because I am the adult, I am saying these things because you and your friends decided that these were good rules to have to be able to have fun and be safe... do you not want to follow the rules?"
"NO" said a defiant voice
"Then what are we going to do... because in Vinden we all want to play safe, rest peacefully and have fun together... and the rules allow us to do that... do you not want to be a part of this group?"
"Then we need to respect the rules that you and your friends have just agreed upon half an hour ago"
There was a pause... (my mind was wondering... have I pushed this too far...) and she replied calmly that she would play safe, rest calmly etc as she realised that it was not ME that was imposing the rules but that I was supporting the group's needs... she just needed to check one more time...
Anyway... back to standing in line...
last week I saw that the children made their own line in the middle of play... I even braved the cold to take my mittens off and take a photo - as this was the first time... they are realising the benefits of having a little patience and lining up... they ALL get to have fun... and no-one gets hurt (phyically or emotionally) by the pushing, shoving and shouting.
BUT would the children have been able to do this if we had not given them the structure?... given them the tools? AND discussed WHY we line up? the purpose behind it all?... because they understood why we line up, they were able to apply it to their own play...