Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Interruption, By Emily Hall, LifeWays Forest Kindergarten Teacher

Last week as the Forest Kindergarteners were hiking past Story Rock, four deer ran by. We looked up, called to each other to make sure everyone saw them, and they were gone. "The Wild Hunter was chasing them!" exclaimed a friend. (Each morning we begin by going to Story Rock to hear the story of the Moss People- gnomes who live in hollow stumps, who are hunted by a big red dragon called the Wild Hunter.) For the rest of the day, as moms and dads came, the children would tell the part about the Wild Hunter and I would tell the part about the deer. Interruptions are not always as beautiful as a herd of deer in the midst of a nature hike. The phone rings, the doorbell buzzes, the cup spills, the plate breaks, the wasp stings. Some interruptions, like a butterfly landing in a grandmother's hair as she is taking her grandson home, feel like inspirations.
Life is full of both kinds of interruption. The experience of watching a beloved caregiver answer the phone in the middle of a favorite book, or stop to clean a baby's face before serving more milk, can be irritating for the children. Then the caregiver is treated to a volley of requests- for the story, for the milk. In the forest it is no different. A beeping construction truck echoes through the birdsong, an ambulance drives by, a tree falls across our favorite hiking path. Shoes untie, water bottles leak, zippers get stuck. The children forget a hat or a backpack and play must stop so we can go back and get them. The children, who learn from imitation and observation, become more resilient to life's interruptions by experiencing them.
During the story of the Moss People, a young friend spilled his hot tea on his leg and began to cry from the wet sensation on his leg. I put down my puppets and comforted him, as the children grew restless and talkative. I began to sing as I held the sopping boy on my lap. The mood of the group quieted and story could begin again. Interruption and irritation, waiting for what you want- these are the tools I use to teach. So that when deer run by, chased by characters from a beloved story, wonder can grow in the space tended by patience.

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