I was perusing my supervision journals from graduate school. My classes were inclusive and consisted of children with emotional disorders, learning disabilities, mood disorders, intellectually advanced children, and neurotypical children. The children ranged in age from five to twelve. In layman’s terms, these children were from every background and developmental level that one could imagine.
In hindsight, I realize that my practicum journals emphasized an important lesson. No matter what background or circumstance these children come from, it does not matter. When they are observed without adding labels, they are all children. I felt that some entries in my journal could reinforce the fact that every child has a talent if we look hard enough. I hope to share some select entries in the future. My intent is to remind family, educators, and the public at large that labels have no place in a classroom or society We can learn as much from children as they learn from adults.
This morning was rather amusing. Some children started an art project. They wished to make kites that we could fly outside while waiting for the arrival of the older children’s school bus. It was early, and only some children were present. A fly buzzed around the art table. The children expressed irritation at the fact that the fly would not extricate itself from the premises. I informed the children that flies were living creatures and had families just like us. I told the children that flies have a right to live. An interesting shift in our art project developed. The children started making a creation from scraps that were lying about. The kite idea was quickly forgotten. In its place was the early construction of a home for the fly family to live in.
I marveled at their creativity and yes, personal reflection of these children. They had considered my explanation of a fly being a living insect within our world. They reconsidered their initial observation that the fly was a mere nuisance. A solution was than decided upon. The fly family needed a home. The children who were the chief builders of the fly haven were five and six years old. Every item found in our scrap box was assessed for use as building material. It is amazing to watch a child find a use for an item an adult would deem as trash to be disposed of.
Three pieces of construction paper served as the floor. Toilet paper found by one child during a trip to the bathroom was set down in multiple layers. This would serve as a bed. Several more layers were cut to an appropriate size, stapled together and attached to the bed to serve as pillows. Construction paper was cut and rolled into a small cone. Upon taping it to the paper floor, a doily was eyed. After scrutinizing the value of this item, it was set on top of the cone to create a table. One child decided that their home would not be complete without a basketball hoop. A small paper rectangle was attached to the front of the house. The center of a paper doily was cut out to create a paper hoop. It was attached to the rectangle stem. Viola–a basketball hoop was created.
I sat and wondered at the creativity and teamwork involved in this piece of architecture. The children had spent well over an hour creating it. I decided I had been the observer long enough. I believe a child’s imagination must be encouraged. Nurturing a child’s imagination develops future adults who are capable of trouble shooting and resolving the world’s issues. If we control every minute of a child’s day, the end result is an adult who was never trained to think independently. I added food for thought. I inquired as to what the fly family would have to eat. The children pondered this for a moment. One child looked up and asked, “Well, what do flies eat anyway?”
My response was answered with a serious tone. I wished to show the children respect for their hard work by taking their questions seriously. My suggestion was to set out a bowl of sugar. The children were informed that baking soda would be used in lieu of sugar. It was all I could find in my arts and crafts stock. I reminded the children that we could pretend it was sugar as the coloring was the same. This prompted the construction of a paper bowl to hold the powdery contents. I suggested a sign be displayed with the children’s motto: “Flies have a right to live.” This was unanimously agreed upon. I wrote the words and the children decorated the sign. The masterpiece sits on the windowsill of my classroom.
I was reminded today how small statements adults make are noted by children. They are much more reflective than we give them credit for. When retrieving some children from the kindergarten class at the end of the day, word had evidently traveled. Children who had not been in my morning program were looking at the ceiling. The quickly said, “Miss Mari, a sad thing happened today”. Thinking a child had been injured I quickly asked to know the news. Several children had an expression on their face that was similar to an adult who had just heard of a death in the family.
My curiosity was soon satisfied. One child pointed to a fly on the ceiling. He was calling the fly Alvin. My guess is the choice of names came from Alvin and the Chipmunks. Evidently, there had been two flies earlier in the day. I was informed that Alvin’s brother Theodore had died. I told them I was sorry to hear of Theodore’s demise. What had started off as a simple imaginary house had turned into a school wide concern for living beings! These children taught me a lesson about life and children. As educators we must never assume that little bodies have little hearts. Today, I was reminded of just how empathetic and reflective my little guys can be.