"But I don't knooooow the marriage dance," the 3 year old lamented, interrupting the ''wedding" in the dramatic play area. "Now I can't get married!"
The wedding party stood frozen. What would happen next? I continued to observe as the “groom" stepped forward saying, "It's easy. I'll teach you." He gently took her hand.
She began to follow his lead and soon they were co-creating their dance. The others smiled and went back to work, laying down a paper aisle for the reunited couple.
Children often naturally mentor each other. We, their teachers and parents, can support and encourage them by noticing.
I witnessed a more-hesitant child focusing on a very skilled classmate. The girl was designing a process for making a stuffy. When the shyer child was asked if he'd like to make one, he shook his head vigorously.
"But I don't know how," he qualified. I waited to see if he'd ask or if someone would volunteer to help him. He glanced at the others who were all attending to their own work, but seemed unable to ask for help.
I paused, and then asked the girl, "When you're finished, would you please teach your friend what you've discovered? He'd like to make a stuffy, too."
She agreed, and with great patience and generosity, mentored him. He was then able to join her in celebration, joyfully parading their stuffies around the room, singing with glee.
As I was writing this blog, two alumni appeared at the cafe. I asked the siblings if they had ever taught each other. They each nodded. The older brother then demonstrated by placing a green clown nose over his own. He just happened to be carrying it in his pocket after finishing a week of clowning camp! I love synchronicity!
From that same deep pocket, he withdrew a pack of cards. He then mentored his sister through clowning tricks he had just mastered.
GUIDELINES FOR TEACHERS:
- "Catch them doing good" is what I first heard it called, while I was teaching language through the arts in a public elementary school.
- Call gentle attention to a behavior we value through oral appreciation of what we have observed.
"I noticed that when your friend felt sad because she didn't know the dance you taught her. Now she, too, knows how."
- Partnering children of different practical or social skill levels encourages scaffolding and greater participation. It contributes to an inclusive environment.
- When a child asks for help, encourage a child who has mastered that skill to be a teacher. "You were able to figure that out. Can you now teach your friend what you've learned?"
As teachers and parents we have ongoing daily opportunities to create a more-peaceful and integrated classroom, family and community.