By Elyse Jacobs
Little Crow in the Crosswalk: A True Story
The young crow waddled across street as the class of children watched from their second story window. Within the safety of the crosswalk, he continued his journey on the hunt for scraps of food. So intent was the new bird on his search that he didn’t notice the speeding car moving too fast down the street. The driver may not have seen him as well as metal hit feathers much to the children’s horror.
This was their crosswalk, right outside their school. Each day they, too, crossed there, hands held high so drivers would be aware of their small bodies. Identifying with the young crow, the children screamed from the window. Too late to warn or help the bird, the children were ushered from the frightening scene outside. With their teachers they spoke of their feelings of sadness, anger and fear. Could that happen to them? They made drawings or dictated words to express how they felt. Some children wrote letters to the little crow’s parents letting them know how sorry they were.
Days later, a raucous noise drifted through the window of the little school on Grove Street. Looking out, the children watched the blue sky become painted with streaks of black as one hundred crows screamed and soared and then descended. Landing on every available roof top and tree branch, the noisy crows immediately and simultaneously became silent. To the children, the silence felt noisier than their cries.
Observing the one hundreds crows, suddenly sitting still, the children were filled with wonder and anticipation. What would happen next? They didn’t have to wait long to find out as some heard-only-by-crows signal was given. All at once, the hundred crows lifted off their perches on tree tops and building roofs and flew away.
The children stood silently in awe. They were again reminded of the violent ending of little crow. They talked of their feelings, the sadness they felt, their fear. Once was not enough. They might have to tell their own stories many times. As good problem solvers, the children worked with their teachers to find a solution to ensure this would never, ever happen again.
Just as the children had a crossing guard so they could safely cross the street, the crows needed one too. Perhaps a crow could use a stop sign like the ones their teachers held up. They decided they’d make some for their friends the crows.
From paper and popsicle sticks they made their signs. Some children worked silently, while others talked about their feelings. When the signs were complete, they placed them in the window of their second-story classroom. Unfortunately, the crows would not have an opportunity to put their signs to use. Little did the children know that their friends and neighbors the crows would not return for two full years. The crow community had been warned by the 100 crows of the danger outside the little preschool on Grove Street. When they did return, a new crop of children, having heard their story gleefully welcomed them back.
Navigating emotions is an essential part of emotional intelligence. Fear and sadness, are two of the core emotions categorized in the Atlas of Emotions, commissioned by the Dali Lama and designed by Paul Eckman. To be able to identify and then express feelings appropriately, even creatively, is key.
Story-making, both oral and written, is an excellent form for processing strong and difficult emotions. Stories can comfort. It’s a gentle way of bringing up some of the more painful aspects of life, particularly death. There is also something transformative in taking the energy of an emotion and creating a story.
- Have children dictate their stories of important life themes such as illness or loss.
- Write down their exact words, as dictated by the children. Older children may like to write their own story with invented spelling or your help.
- Another option is to collect their individual oral stories and piece together into one written story, later to be read back to the children.
- Most children will make drawings for illustrations, some instead of words. Drawing is an excellent form of expression. It may be much later that some children are able to express with words.
- Make copies for the children to take home. Reading their stories at home with parents or caregivers gives continuity and continues the healing process.
- Keep one copy on a shelf with other classroom books. Laminating is optional. Children can take them out and read as needed.
- Written stories can be kept year after year, for group or individual reading or acting out the story with puppets.
Whether dealing with violence or the natural but painful death of a relative or pet, expressing their thoughts and feelings as a story soothes. It also helps to develop the children’s compassion and empathy. These are important capacities to develop and keep growing throughout their lives.