She Had To Act
by Chick Moorman
Kay and I had been quietly talking about record keeping procedures for her kindergarten classroom, when the buses began to arrive. We noticed the two boys right away.
They had begun their altercation sometime before they got to school. Perhaps it had started on the bus. Or maybe it began at the bus stop. It could have even been a carry over from the day before. At any rate it was in full force and totally evident at the time of their arrival.
They came bursting out of the school bus door, pushing, shoving and loudly proclaiming their existence. We watched as they crossed the grass mixing threats with gestures and meshing words with actions. By the time the boys reached the school room door it was clear that words had lost and actions had won. Verbal had given way to physical.
As the youngsters entered the room, they continued their struggle. In an instant they were sprawled on the floor in front of us kicking, slugging, grabbing, squeezing, hanging on, and hollering.
It's times like these when I appreciate my job most. I was the advisor, the visitor. I would enjoy the luxury of being able to sit and observe. Kay could not. She was the teacher, the person in charge. She had to act.
Kay went immediately to the boys and separated them with gentle firmness. "I can see you boys are angry," she stated.
The words Kay chose sound so simple that it would be easy to miss their beauty. It wouldn't be at all difficult to ignore their depth. But to pass them by without closer examination would be to deny Kay her due as a competent professional and her warmth as a sensitive human being who has fallen in love with five-year-olds.
"I can see you boys are angry." Those were her exact words. No more. No less. But the extent of the message she communicated far exceeded the brevity of her comment.
She spoke, "I can see you boys are angry." But the message was "I recognize your feelings. It looks to me like anger. I see it and I respect it. Your anger is an honest emotion and you are entitled to it. I won't try to deny you your anger or change it. It is O.K. to be angry here."
"I can see you boys are angry," she said. The boys nodded ("Yes, we are angry"). Kay then took the boys by the hand and led them to the woodworking center. She pulled out a box of scrap lumber, some nails, and two hammers. "Now show me just how angry you are," she challenged.
They responded. Angry noises quickly filled the room as hammers alternately hit and missed nails. Kay and I resumed our conversation as other children began to wander in.
A few minutes later we noticed that the hammering had ended. The boys had tired of the task and had found other activities and feelings to experience. The boys may have found something new to do together. Perhaps they found separate experiences to enjoy. I don't recall. That's not important anyway.
What is important is the Kay had shown two boys an appropriate way to express their anger. She had shown them that anger in itself is not bad, but that some ways of expressing it could not be tolerated in this setting. She had provided them a legitimate channel with which to communicate their feelings.
The boys could now look forward to a happy day at school. Kay could now look forward to working with two happy boys. It was a nice ending to the beginning of the day.
Chick Moorman is the author of Spirit Whisperers: Teachers Who Nourish A Child's Spirit. He also publishes a FREE email newsletter for parents and another for educators. Subscribe to them when you visit www.chickmoorman.com. Chick Moorman is one of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. For more information about how he can help you or your group meet your teaching needs, visit his website today.