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Creating Community

It is such fun being back in school. I admit that re-arranging the classroom, including a new system for our ever expanding library, had my stomach feeling a little knotted on Tuesday and Wednesday. But when the children arrived on Thursday, and we slid into our day, it all evaporated.

These first few weeks of school are all about creating our community and setting expectations. What can you do during free choice time? How do you join the cooking extravaganza happening in the mud kitchen? How do 16 people wash their hands for snack at 2 sinks without causing tsunamis or stampedes? What part of your lunch leftovers goes in the compost, the trash, and the recycling? How do we all help maintain our library so that we can find a dinosaur book when we need one?

We tried to answer some of these questions. We also sang together, played together, built a box for our playground toys, and spent quite a bit of time talking about how we can all be kind.

Theresa read Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud. The book takes the concept of self esteem and makes it a little more concrete, suggesting that each of us carries an invisible bucket that is filled by other people when they are kind. The children eloquently described how it feels when your bucket is running low. "My belly hurts." "My neck and chest feel tight." They had lots of ideas of how to help fill a bucket: asking someone to play, really listening to Mom, pushing someone in the tube on the playground. Each child made a bucket, filled it with bits of tissue paper and ribbon, then had the chance to share those bits of kindness with their friends. It was lovely watching them care for their classmates in this concrete way.

Today we shared the story The Kingdom With No Rules, No Laws, and No King by Norman Stiles. The children got the idea that a world without rules really wouldn't be that great. "It would be chaos!" offered one student. We used the story and our experiences of the first two days to come up with a list of rules. We'll sit with the list over the next few weeks to see if there are any parts we want to change or things that need to be added, but it was pretty comprehensive. Sometimes when I've done this with classes in the past they can get really stuck on one idea like "No hitting!" One student will suggest, "Don't punch someone." Someone else adds, "No pushing people." Another chimes in, "Don't shove people." I do my best to sum up all of these ideas in a broad statement like "Respect your classmates' bodies." But this year, the children had a list that tended towards the positive. "Be truthful." "Include people." "Treat others the way you want to be treated."

I look forward to the rest of this year and the world that these children will help to create.

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